Every vote really does make a difference

There are three fundamental reasons why every vote matters.

The first, and most obvious, is that votes determine who governs. The emergence over the last decade of more “political bodies” that are smaller and with more tightly defined political agendas than traditional “political parties” suggests we are likely to see more third party candidates, more runoffs, and even smaller margins in the vote count. Every vote cast can potentially be “the vote” that determines the outcome. In other words, we seem to be moving into an electoral environment in which each vote will count even more than it has in the past in deciding who will exercise those “just powers” derived from the “consent of the governed,” as expressed in our Declaration of Independence.

Second, votes keep elected officials attuned to the political and philosophical sentiments of their electorate even after the voting is over. The certain knowledge that there will always be another vote means that politicians tend to make policy decisions in keeping with the broader values of their electorate. Cases in point include those so-called “third rail” issues, like Social Security, on which the public may never have voted directly, but where elected officials clearly understand the wishes of the voters. Votes significantly influence how officials govern even after the election.

Finally, and most importantly, voting gives voice to the most basic beliefs and desires of the people – about themselves, their families, their country, their community, and the proper roles and responsibilities of their government. When votes are cast in free, fair, and accessible elections, the people know that their voice is being heard, even if “their candidate” doesn’t win or “their issue” isn’t addressed as they might wish.

The importance of this to the peoples’ confidence in their government can hardly be overstated. Recently, in countries where the people had no voice at all, we have seen three longstanding dictatorships brought down, and a fourth dragged down into a protracted civil war. In the final analysis, voting gives voice to the people, preserves their confidence in our government, and assures the stability of our democracy.

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A voter must get informed about the candidates and their positions on the issues. These are the people who will make decisions about taxes, education, public safety, and scores of other issues that affect all our daily lives. The League of Women Voters of Georgia with our partners The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News provides our online 2014 Voter Guide that is available at lwvga.org, ajc.com/voterguide and wsbtv.com. Other resources are newspapers, candidate forums/debates, radio talk shows and television.

Sample ballots, poll locations and hours are available at mvp.sos.state.ga.us. On this site, you can also request that an absentee ballot be sent to you.

Voter ID Requirements and other valuable voting tips can be found at on the League’s website: http://lwvga.org/electionday101.html .

Early voting is underway and will continue until May 16, including Saturday, May 10th. Election day is Tuesday, May 20.

The foundation of our democracy is every citizen’s right to vote. Your vote in every election helps assure that our democracy steadfastly remains — in the words of Abraham Lincoln — “of the People, by the People and for the People.”

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