Without a doubt, one of the best things about living in America – the greatest country in the world – is having the privilege to elect our leaders at all levels of government.
Unlike in some countries, we have the opportunity to make our wishes known by voting early or going to the polls on Election Day. In a private setting, we get to help choose our government officials and decide whether or not we support amendments and initiatives of various kinds. And we do that on large-scale elections like selecting our next president, all the way down to the smaller, specific races like those involving Community Development District supervisors.
While that sounds like the perfect system, there are flaws. First and foremost, many people simply don’t bother to vote. Some spout the old adage of “one vote doesn’t make a difference,” while others just refuse to participate in the election process.
Another issue is that many voters are quite uniformed. Sure, they know who they want to support in the national races – sometimes their reasoning may scare an educated voter – but when it comes to races like selecting a judge or taking a position on an amendment, they don’t have a clue. So they do the worst thing possible – they just pick the first name on the ballot and move on with their day.
Frankly, we think that’s a shame. We’re big believers in being prepared when voting. And we think others should take that same approach and put in the time to learn about the people or measures they’re voting on.
Fortunately, there’s a great way to do just that, thanks to the League of Women Voters of The Villages/Tri-County Area. If you’re not familiar with this non-partisan group, they do just about everything possible to make it easy for voters to educate themselves before heading to the polls. They don’t tell people how to vote. Rather, they put the information out there for voters to read so they can make informed choices.
The local chapter of the League of Women Voters, which is nationally recognized, has an excellent website – https://www.lwvtrifl.org/ – offering a plethora of information about the upcoming Nov. 6 general election. The group’s stated goal – empowering citizens to shape better communities – is evident once one visits the site and takes the time to start learning.
One of our favorite parts is the Voter Toolkit, which explains everything from the different types of elections – primary, general and special – to the three ways to vote. There’s also some fun facts to dispute the “my one vote won’t make a difference” nonsense – one vote brought Texas and California into the Union in 1845 and 1850, respectively, and determined the governors of Maine, Rhode Island and North Dakota in 1962.
The League also has a speaker’s bureau that’s available to area organizations. Educational talks include information about the amendments on the November ballot, the Constitution Revision Commission and the restoration of felon voting rights, among other things. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out the immense value that comes from candidate meet-and-greets like the one the League held earlier this month at Colony Cottage Recreation Center and in August for judicial candidates at the Wildwood Community Center.
But without a doubt, one of the best things about the League’s website is the link to vote411.org, the culmination of hard work put in by federal, state and local League of Women Voters. That site offers just about everything one needs to know about the upcoming election. And voters can narrow down the races and get personalized information.
Another great feature is the ability to see candidates’ unedited answers to questions. That way, you can compare their answers and make your own decisions about who will get your vote. We all know that you can learn a lot by reading someone’s unedited work, so having those answers to pertinent questions is a real plus for voters.
Information about constitutional amendments – clearly one of the most confusing parts of any election – also is available at vote411.org. In fact, you can learn about the amendments by reading a brief description and seeing what a yes or no vote really means.
You also can see the League’s position on each amendment. And you can request someone to speak to your organization by using a handy contact form that’s easily accessible.
If you’re still confused about the election – we can assure you that you won’t be the first or the last one to have that problem – you can fill out a contact form or attend one of the group’s monthly meetings that are highlighted on the website.
Here’s something else that’s pretty cool – once you’ve made your choices for the upcoming election, you can print, email or text them to yourself to use as a reference when voting. That way, there’s no confusion when you take advantage of that wonderful privilege afforded to Americans that we talked about earlier.
So, before you cast those ballots by mail, during the early voting period or on Nov. 6, please take a moment and check out the League’s website. Remember, it’s a non-partisan group that offers information – not endorsements. And it’s an easy way to be extremely educated when you take part in a process that some in other parts of the world can only dream about.