Change comes when you cast your vote
American voters will elect a new president, as well as other representatives, in less than a month.
We are at one month and counting.
This week we marked four weeks until Americans go to the polls to elect a new president.
Here in Pennsylvania, we also will elect a U.S. Senator, members of Congress, our entire state House and half the state Senate.
This past week also marked the deadline to register to actually take part in that democratic process of casting your ballot.
Please notice the lower case “d” we used to describe that simple civic action. If you are not registered to vote, you cannot take part in this process. You have squandered your basic constitutional right.
We would suggest you also should be banned from complaining about the outcomes, but we know that’s not the case, and it is not going to happen. Those who refrain from visiting the voting booth don’t necessarily lose opinions; they just lost the ability to make them count.
For them, Sound Off, Twitter and Facebook still offer them the ability to make their opinions known, even if they do not carry the conviction of the civic duty.
Of course, registering to vote is a fairly meaningless exercise without actually “exercising” that right. In other words, making sure you visit a polling place in a month’s time and cast your ballot for the candidates of your choosing.
Much has been made about the value of a vote. We have heard from many — in particular those in impoverished areas — who have already made their decision, and it is a troubling one.
They in effect have decided to disenfranchise themselves, believing the current system offers no solutions to the very real hardships they face every day.
It is easy to understand such sentiment. It is easy to look at the personal attacks that seem to define American politics today, as well as the massive amounts of big money at work influencing our vote, and wonder how these candidates — and this system — could understand the very real struggles at play here.
For those who embrace such an attitude, and who are contemplating not bothering at all in a system that seems irrelevant, we offer a counter argument.
Don’t take our word for it. Listen to Enrique Latoison. He knows exactly how you feel. He’s been there.
Latoison is an attorney by trade. We won’t hold that against him. He was born and raised in Chester, Delaware County, and admits that for decades he did not take part in the democratic process.
In other words, he did what many others recently have suggested. He disenfranchised himself.
“For 30 years, I did not vote,” the Media attorney admitted. “I’m embarrassed to say that. For me, I guess I always thought it didn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, there’s nothing I can do. My vote’s not going to make a difference so why vote?” Sound familiar? Instead, a chance meeting at an Upper Darby block party with then Upper Darby Township Councilwoman Marianne Grace changed his thinking. Grace is now Delaware County’s executive director.
Grace has a saying when it comes to politics, civics and being a vibrant part of your community.
“One of the things, without being sappy about it, that I really do believe is be the change you want to see,” Grace said.
She certainly chanted Latoison.
He decided to get involved, and he noticed something once he did. He realized community and party leaders know who actually votes – and who doesn’t. IF you don’t vote, you don’t matter. Latoison decided to matter. “If (people) are saying, ‘I don’t vote. Voting doesn’t matter or it doesn’t do anything,’ it’s not supposed to matter for you individually because you are not a constituent.
“A politician is supposed to care about their constituents. If you do not vote, you are not a constituent.”
And Latoison believes that is especially true at the local level.
“When you start to vote, you become connected to your community and that allows you to affect your way to change,” Latoison said. “It allows you to make change.”
If you are registered to vote, or if you just did so in beating yesterday’s deadline, congratulations.
But that’s only part of the prize. The real prize is up for grabs in a month. Make change. Just ask Enrique Latoison.