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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Most Important Day of the Year for Conservation Issues

Today, Election Day, is probably the most important day of the year for anyone concerned about conservation issues. Today is the day that each of us who are registered to vote have the ability to join together to shape the future debate on matters such as Smart Growth, protection of fisheries, endangered species preservation, and whether gas drillers should have to pay a tax on the volume of natural gas they produce (like they do in every state except Pennsylvania).

I think Election Day is pretty darn exciting. Aren't each of us somewhat honored when our peers ask for us our opinion about something (other than when telemarketers are doing surveys)? I love having the opportunity twice a year to go into a voting booth and cast my ballot for issues I think are important and for candidates who I think will champion the issues that I feel are important. 

Today is the day that each of us has the opportunity to go to the polls and vote for the candidate or candidates who are best aligned with our conservation ideals. How many people do you know who care deeply about environmental issues but fail to show up at the polls for every election? The percentages turnout of of registered voters vary by community around the country. In my municipality, it tends to range between 12-14%. Pretty poor.

I spent about an hour and a half this morning handing out campaign literature to voters arriving at a local polling station. I was hearing reports that turnout appeared to be pretty good (as of mid-morning) compared with recent general election years. The weather started out cold, but by midday now, it's party sunny and in the low 50's. So that could help boost turnout. It's sad that people in other countries would kill or die for the right to vote, and some of our own neighbors won't go vote if the weather seems inconvenient.

But I saw something this morning at the polling place that still has me scratching my head. Within 5 minutes of each other, I saw two cars pull in, each with a man and a woman. In both cases, the gentleman got out of the car and went inside to vote. Both women remained in their respective cars. One of them appeared to be doing her nails. The other one was reading a newspaper. These two women were 40 feet away from the door of the polling place, and they did not get out of the car and walk inside to vote. I don't get it.

It can be very time consuming and potentially frustrating to attend municipal and county commissioner meetings  a couple times a month to keep an eye on our elected officials and share our opinions with them. But two times a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, when we have the opportunity, the privilege, to cast our vote, why on earth would we not do so? Many folks complain that both major political parties have been taken over by extremists. That just means it's time for the average person to get out there to modulate who is getting elected to office. It's most crucial in local elections, because the local level is where the decisions are made that impact our daily lives. 

There are just under 7 hours remaining today to vote. If you have not done so yet, please get up, walk, bike, or drive to your polling place, and cast your vote. Because today is the day that your opinion matters the most.