November 6 , 2018 marks the United States midterm elections. Across the nation people from all walks of life will take to the ballot boxes to vote for their representatives and decide the course of the country. Consequences for not voting can be devastating. Participation is imperative. “ I think voting is a large part of what it means to be civically engaged in America,” says Alex Cragun Executive Director of The Utah Democratic Party. “I don’t want to say if you don’t show up and vote you don’t have a right to complain — I don’t believe in that. But if you don’t show up and vote, you’re surrendering your power to those are more eager and interested in claiming it.
Before casting a ballot, finding information about candidates and propositions is essential to the voting process. Resources are abundant, however voters should check out websites like Vote.utah.gov and betterutah.org (Alliance for A Better Utah). These sites are home to information on candidates and issues such as proposed Utah Constitutional Amendments, Ballot Initiatives and Nonbinding Opinion Questions. Vote.utah.gov also allows voters to find their voting locations simply by entering their zip code. One can even search for election information through candidate’s social media pages or with sources such as ABU Education Fund voter guide and Action Utah voter guide. Regarding Judges, one can search here, to research if the Justice Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) recommends that Judges retain their position.
Registering to vote is also easy can be done through Vote.utah.gov , or the county clerk’s office. People registering are advised to keep track of their registration so they can vote on Election Day. Luckily in Utah there are many avenues to cast a ballot. One is by early voting or to vote by mail. This can be conducted up to a month before the electing and thus gives people more time to vote. Another is on the day of the election knowing that your employer is required by law to give you time to vote. This is an option as long as you give them proper notice.
Ideally a Federal holiday observing voting on Election Day holds certain appeal. However as Cragun points out people working jobs not covered by a salary may not immediately benefit. This is because people who are reliant on a hourly paycheck or tips may choose to make money instead out of necessity.
Motivation for turning out to vote varies from person to person. What most inspires people is when their issues of concern are addressed. These issues range can range from climate change, paying living wages, healthcare access or promise of employment. This being said, Cragun suggests that the majority of those who traditionally vote are usually economically comfortable and have the time to study the issues. Furthermore, voting is difficult for those stuck working three jobs, have family responsibilities or lack necessities like a driver’s license. Cragun adds, “I think what gets people to not show up when they don’t feel like their issues are being talked about. People feel like the institutions around them don’t listen to them. When they feel disenfranchised they stay home.”
However, for many are sometimes tipping points for people to get involved.” It could be because your bus stop is consistently late, or a lack of access to healthcare, says Cragun. “ It could be a singular moment or a combination of them that pushes someone to get involved into politics. The world they are in isn’t on they want to be in.”
Simply voting doesn’t necessarily ensure change will happen. That requires patience and civic vigilance and engagement. According to Cragun , change isn’t a sprint or a big tug a war where if you pull hard enough all of sudden everything permanently juts into your favor. Cragun says, “Change is like a more of a marathon.” It’s a slow long- term process that requires constant engagement. People have to vote and then show up to confront their elected official to voice their opinions. “Take for example the indigenous rights day in 2016,” says Cragun. “That was overwhelming passed by the council and by the Mayor because enough people said this is what we care about. Had only one person come in to address this thing we’d still probably be talking about celebrating on Monday, Columbus Day.”
If issues aren’t address, rally to bring attention to them and then build rapport with officials, run for office and advocate someone to run for office. Individually, a person will not hold much sway, but if people organize their community to talk about issues concerning them, representatives are more likely to listen. “They’re not going to look good if they don’ t listen, “ says Cragun .“It’s vital that people who are running for office talk about the issues people care about.”
An example highlighted by Cragun is the issues around Standing Rock and Bears Ears and the push by the legislature to shrink the monument whilst appealing to President Trump about this. “The capital was completely full to the top with people in opposition to a resignation for the bears ears monument and we got national coverage for that,” says Cragun. “The Utah legislature looked as it always looks–out of step with the popular beliefs and common beliefs of Utah.
Other opportunities lie with the ballot initiative. It’s process that is difficult and organizers are required to get ten percent of the voting population and 10 percent of senate districts to sign on. This is particularly effective way to force the issue if folks feel that the state legislature is unwilling to listen. However, it will require substantial funding to get signatures and to educate the population on the issue.
Ultimately though, informed voting is the place to start, know the issues and how they will affect you and your community personally. The next step is finding an advocacy organization or an issue to get involved in. Cragun says, “Someone who is elected in office for four years has great influence in changing things—this can have a lasting impact particularly if it’s someone who represents your side of the issue.” Candidates in races can be diametrically different from each other . So it’s important to find someone that will listen to what the public cares about. It also means keeping tabs on them. “It’s absolutely vital to affecting the political process,” says Cragun. “Every year is always the most important year when it comes to elections. Staying home isn’t an option. You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”