Abraham Lincoln once said: “Elections belong to the people. It is their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
We all know that casting a vote is a privilege and a responsibility. We know that it is the foundation of our American democracy and our country’s strength in the world. But one vote?
Your one vote might seem insignificant when compared with millions, but the last presidential election demonstrated just how close an election could be. Beyond just being tallied on Nov. 2, there is another way that your vote counts in an election.
Your vote is as an expression of preference for a candidate or for a party, regardless of whether the candidate ultimately wins or loses. Elections are more than simply a mechanism for selecting public officials; they are a means for communicating values, concerns and attitudes to the government.
By voting, you contribute not only to the general good of the country, you also influence decisions and policies that will have a direct impact on you, your family and your profession.
Who votes and who does not vote? This question is extremely important because politicians wanting to get into Congress or wanting to remain there will be most responsive to interests of the people they expect will actually vote.
Political campaigns do endless research and analysis to identify who will actually cast their ballots in November and to identify what issues are of greatest concern to those voters. As someone once said, “What is real in politics is what the voters decide is real.”
That is why it is important for professional truckers to register, to vote and to become a big, loud “target audience” for politicians. Developing a sizeable constituency in elections translates to having a significant influence in how lawmakers vote on issues before Congress and on their future policies.
Senior citizens are one of the largest blocks of active voters in the United States. Because of this, issues concerning prescription drug benefits, health care for the elderly, Medicare and Social Security are key factors in any current election. Political candidates must address these issues, while incumbents must have supported them during their time in office. The block of senior votes translates to a high degree of influence for groups such as the AARP. All who seek public office are aware of the importance of appeasing them and their members.
The same can be said about other groups such the NRA, Sierra Club, National Right-to-Life and the National Organization for Women. These groups wield tremendous political clout because of the large blocks of voters that are associated with them.
Consider that there are roughly 3 million truckers in the United States. Professional truckers and their families have the potential to create a powerful and highly influential voting block. The same legislative priority currently received by other groups would be given to appropriate compensation, adequate truck parking and dozens of other issues important to you and your livelihood.
Voting is one of the greatest powers you as a citizen have in making your voice be heard. A collective shout from truckers across the country this November would no doubt be heard loud and clear in the halls of Capitol Hill.
The Help America Vote Act of 2002
In response to the controversial 2000 presidential election and its vote count debacle in Florida, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (aka HAVA). This legislation affects nearly every aspect of elections in the United States.
The intent of the law is to guarantee that all Americans, regardless of disabilities, limited language skills or access to polling places can exercise their right to vote in a private, reliable and secure environment. HAVA sets guidelines that states must follow. It is up to individual states to form their own plan on how to comply with the law.
The law covers a wide array of topics ranging from military and overseas voting to the recruitment of students as poll workers. At its core are new federal standards for voting systems, for voter registration and for polling place procedures.
Under the HAVA, new electronic voting systems will be required to have the following features:
- They must allow the voter to review the ballot and correct errors;
- They must be able to produce a paper audit;
- They must be accessible to voters with disabilities;
- They must be able to handle multilingual ballots; and
- They must not exceed the machine error rate established by the Federal Election Commission.
Overall, HAVA has certainly helped in making registering to vote and casting a ballot much simpler and faster for most truckers.
For those of you who didn’t vote in the last election, your excuses are running out this time around.
Rod Nofziger may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.