Voting Made Easier
(March 6, 2018 is the Joint Primary Election. Polls are open from 7 AM to 7 PM. For a list of polling sites, click here: McLennan County Election Day Voting Centers. If you are a registered voter in McLennan County, you can vote at any center, regardless of where you live. – ABT)
By Diamante Maya
The United States is a country that prides itself on being a democracy. We see it as so important that we like to help establish democracies in countries around the world. One of the most basic principles of a democracy is that the people vote for who they want to represent them in the government. Despite the importance we place on our value of being a democracy, we as a country have low voter turnout. In the 2016 Presidential election, 40% of the eligible voter population in the U.S. DID NOT show up to vote. And this was actually a higher voter turnout than has been the case in recent history.
I remember graduating high school, turning 18 and being able to vote. I remember how overwhelming it felt because I had never been taught how to vote. I had so many questions about the process. Am I registered? How do I register? What am I voting for? How do I pick who to vote for? It’s been almost two decades since I was 18 and I have yet to be taught how to vote. I’m not aware of any classes or how-to manuals on this. It wasn’t taught in high school and it’s not taught in college. Instead, I have had to teach myself.
When I lived in Los Angeles in my early 20’s, I remember receiving a booklet in the mail. I had not requested it. It just came automatically. I don’t know if the city sent it or not because I was not paying attention to that at the time. It was a non-partisan booklet and it would, for example, list a particular proposition and what those “for” say and what those “against” say. It was up to me to decide what I believed. I remember how much relief I felt receiving this booklet in the mail. Otherwise, I would not have known an election was happening or what it was about.
Then I moved to Waco and in the 8 years I have lived here, I have never automatically received a booklet in the mail to help me out. In fact, many times, I did not even know an election was happening. I had to be proactive to find out. The first year I was here, there was an election. I went online trying to find information and I clicked around trying to figure out what was on the ballot. I couldn’t figure it out and I consider myself quite adept at navigating the internet. I wrote to some friends that were more knowledgeable than I on the topic and they gave me a link to follow to the city website. I remember clicking on the link for a sample ballot and seeing a bunch of letters and numbers. It was not straight forward. I randomly clicked and it pulled up a ballot, but it only told me what was on the ballot. It did not tell me what each person stood for.
As I have talked to people, I have realized that my experience is not the exception. It appears to be the norm. Out of curiosity, I looked it up and discovered California had a 75% voter turn-out compared to Texas’ 43% in the 2016 Presidential Elections. These numbers vary each Presidential election, but stay in a similar range.
Fast forward to February of this year, 2018. I again asked if there was a useful, simple, comprehensive website. This time I asked some people from the League of Women Voters. Finally, finally, I was led to a website that I wished I had discovered many years ago when I turned 18. It’s a non-partisan, comprehensive, easy to navigate website that only requires your address. It gives some basic information on candidates and, for those that provide information; it gives you links to learn more about them. You can access it from your computer or your smart phone.
So, if you are like me and you would like a comprehensive, easy to navigate, website, I highly recommend www.vote411.org. Here are the questions the website answers:
- Am I registered to vote?
- Where can I vote?
- What if I can’t go in person?
- Who and what is on the ballot?
- What does each candidate stand for?
- What are the dates for voting?
- How do I register to vote?
In Texas, we don’t just receive information automatically in the mail about elections, unless it’s a candidate trying to get you to vote for them. It’s an area we could improve; however, until then, each of us has to be proactive. A democracy can’t possibly have representatives for the people if people do not show up to vote for who they want to represent them. Election Day for the primaries is March 6, 2018. Those candidates that get the most votes from each party will run against each other in the November elections. Check out www.vote411.org, exercise your right to participate in selecting who represents you in our government, and spread the word.
Diamante Maya is social worker by trade and a political activist by hobby. Inspired by the life of Jesus, she is an advocate for the marginalized in society.