October 25, 2010

Why Vote?

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

At times, people ask, "Why vote? My one little vote does not really make a difference." The question is often raised by those frustrated with the course of our government. But, voting is central to effecting change. It is also essential to vote because each vote is meaningful, voting is a right we cannot take for granted and Americans continue to make sacrifices to protect our freedoms, including the right to vote. For whatever reasons a person votes in the coming elections on Tuesday, November 2, communities, states and the country need broad involvement in the upcoming elections to set the best direction for our nation.

Recent examples of close votes illustrate the importance of voting and the significance of individual votes. In 2006, legislation to authorize Congress to prohibit the desecration of the U.S. flag failed to pass the Senate by one vote. President George W. Bush ultimately won the 2000 Presidential election by one electoral vote. Last December, Senate debate on the health care law was brought to an end by one vote.

The right to vote should also not be undervalued. This year marks the 90th anniversary of women gaining suffrage in the U.S., and the 140th anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, protecting the right to vote for all Americans. With the passage of time, it is often easy to forget that there was a time when all citizens did not have a say in determining their representation and could not cast ballots. As Americans, we also have more of a voice in determining the leadership of our nation than individuals living in some other countries. Additionally, thousands of U.S. service members are serving overseas defending our freedoms, including the right to vote, that we hold dear. American families across this nation are making daily sacrifices awaiting the safe return of their loved ones.

As Election Day nears, it is important to learn about candidates and issues and participate in the electoral process. Students often receive lessons about the importance of voting, an early lesson that many may forget later in life. However, we can serve as examples to younger generations by gathering important information and voting. The official voting information website for the State of Idaho can be accessed at www.idahovotes.gov. The website provides election forms, voter registration information, polling place locations and other voting information. Also, it is important to remember proper identification when going to the polls. Personal identification is required to vote in Idaho. Photo identification, including an Idaho driver's license or photo identification card, a U.S. passport or federal photo identification card, a tribal photo identification card, current student photo identification or signing a Personal Identification Affidavit are required to vote.

I share the frustration of many Americans with the partisanship leading up the elections. However, it is comforting to know that, despite the divisiveness right now, we live in a nation where people can constructively disagree. No matter the outcome of the elections, peaceful political discourse will continue. We also cannot lose sight of the continued sacrifices to protect this cherished freedom. Every vote is important. It is essential to voice one's views through voting, as it contributes to the strength of our nation. The Founding Fathers understood that the people's vote is the underlying constraint on government gone astray. Self-governance helps guide the course of our nation. Our system works best when active and broad participation is matched with a transparent and productive debate. I am optimistic that understanding and collaboration will prevail, and we can work together to chart a productive course for our nation.

# # #

Word Count: 600