Final Days; Final Thoughts – Legislative Update

By Leo Sell, Legislative Committee Chair

Tuesday, November 6 is rapidly approaching. I write this on the day of the final debate between President Obama and his challenger. You’ll find a link to the MEA Voter Guide elsewhere in this issue. So rather than duplicate information, I’m going to focus on how I hope APA members make their voting decisions.

First and foremost, members must decide to vote. It ought to go without saying, but the fact is roughly 1 out of 3 people who could vote in the national election do not do so. Even if our collective participation rate is higher, if 20 percent of you do not vote that is 500 people who are failing to exercise this critical civic duty. So first point – VOTE! Participate!

Second, please vote on an informed basis. This means different things for different people. For me, I start with my own general principles of support for economic justice, workers’ rights/safety/collective bargaining rights and support, support for women’s health rights, and science-based positions on climate change, fossil fuels, energy, etc. and even education of our children. (I am not a fan of religious intrusion into public education for instance).

Since I cannot know all candidates directly, I then turn to trusted organizations like MEA for screening decisions and I use that information to guide me in casting a vote for those offices and people less familiar to me – the nonpartisan/court races in particular.

On ballot issues I apply the same principles and guidance as well as looking at the analysis of organizations like Michigan’s Citizens Research Council. Armed with all of that, I cast my vote and I guarantee you I do not completely subscribe to the MEA guidance in all cases.

I hope you engage in similar considerations as you ponder your vote.

Now, many of you will have already cast your votes. While Michigan’s absentee balloting is not quite “no-excuse required” it is relatively easy to qualify. Casting an absentee ballot provides an opportunity to avoid the long lines that are expected this year due to the excessive number of ballot proposals to consider. If you haven’t already requested one and can qualify you have until Saturday November 3 at 2pm to request one from your local clerk.

Interestingly, where no-excuse absentee balloting is allowed, voter turnout and participation is already very robust. This makes it plain to me that Americans will participate if the convenience to do so is increased. Unfortunately, quite the opposite has been happening here in Michigan and in our neighbor state, Ohio, where deliberate attempts to scare and intimidate certain demographics have been reflected by requiring duplicative assertion of citizenship, reduction of early voting opportunities, etc.  See some other thoughts on the subject written for the Muskegon Chronicle - http://www.mlive.com/opinion/muskegon/index.ssf/2012/09/david_kolb_the_absentee_ballot.html

So to my earlier list of my principles, add encouraging voters/voting rights and convenience for ALL voters. The voter suppression tactics widely engaged in this year are frankly utterly disgusting.