Change comes when you cast your vote

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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