Although it feels like just yesterday that the pool covers came off and crowded public spaces became inundated with the sickly-sweet scent of body odor and sunscreen, summer is giving her final bow goodbye in Rhode Island – despite intermittent 90-degree days trying to convince us otherwise.
One surefire way to know that fall is fast approaching is the advent of election season. Although we are in between presidential elections this year, mid-term elections in some ways are even more important, as they decide races that have implications from your local community and all the way to Washington D.C.
The Statewide Primary will be held on a Wednesday this year, on Sept. 12 – due to the conclusion of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah falling on Sept. 11 this year. The polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. You can find your polling place and a sample ballot for your declared party by visiting https://vote.sos.ri.gov. For information on sending in an emergency mail-in ballot in the case you are unable to physically be at a polling location, visit http://www.elections.state.ri.us/elections/upcoming/index.php.
The importance of voting in any election is something we feel the need to spend some ink on and allocate space for. It is the core democratic principal that binds our country together and enables us to, in a sense, choose our own fate; who governs us, how we hold those who do not carry out the will of the people accountable for their actions and who we prop up to give a chance to do a better job.
This year, unfortunately, interest in running for local office is far more stagnant than any healthy democracy should be. Around 30 percent of seats in the state General Assembly will go wholly uncontested this year, with countless more local municipal positions facing no challengers. Such a reality is one that is bad for us all, as unopposed politicians have no reason to re-think mistakes, no reason to fear being unseated from their positions of power and no reason to feel like servants of the public.
This is why voting for positions that do have multiple candidates a week from now becomes even more important. Some of these races are decided by the primary, as there is no opposing party challenger. These races also give you the opportunity to dig deep into your local issues and the people from your community who seek to attain that position. Why are they running? What do they hope to achieve if elected? How would that impact you?
In assessing a candidate, it is even more crucially important that you look into a candidate’s actions versus their rhetoric. Anybody can promise wonderful things and appear polished and spotless in front of a microphone, however the impetus is on you, the voter, to look beyond the words and try to find examples of this candidate doing work that supports their statements. Have they volunteered in a previous capacity elsewhere? Do they work to assist others? Or is it all hot air?
Too often, nationally and locally, we treat the sacred act of voting as if it were an inconvenient obligation. Some will simply mark off names based on party lines, or who so-and-so at the office said they liked or who the talking head on TV said was the better choice. When it comes down to it, the best candidate for you is a decision that only you can make, and you are doing a disservice to yourself and the democratic process by not seriously engaging in it.
Political races shouldn’t be won and lost based on the number of yard signs you can stick in the grass or the promises you can make on a campaign flier. Races should be won by engaging with the populace that you hope to help govern, and convincing enough of those constituents that you deserve a shot at the job. If the candidate is an incumbent, measure your willingness to vote for them based on how they delivered on those promises made when they were first seeking election.
Being able to vote is what makes America free, but voting based on legitimate reasons after taking the time to conduct the necessary research is what makes America great.