You do make a difference


There aren’t many issues in the political realm that I feel strongly enough to write about and advocate for, but voting is one of them.

A little more than two years ago, I wrote about how important it is to vote. That was right before the Rhode Island primary in September 2014. Did anybody listen? Did it change anybody’s mind about going to the polls? I don’t know. But I feel like it’s important to emphasize it again.

This time you really can’t ignore the election. Print media is filled with reports of the rhetoric. Television and radio broadcast nonstop commentary. And online you can find reports and discussions that speak to any opinion from left to right, one extreme to the other.

As a matter of fact, if you do not want to hear about this election, you would be hard-pressed to avoid it. (Thankfully, we’re not living in a swing state where TV and radio commercials are constant and often vicious.)

I know there are people, especially younger adults and those who are conflicted about how to vote, who say their vote won’t count. I find that unsettling.

Every vote counts. Red state. Blue state. It doesn’t matter where you live. Your vote counts.

It’s not just about the candidates for the top office. There are other contests to be decided. And almost every state has important questions on the ballot that affect your life. Each vote helps to decide how your state and your locality will look in the years to come.

In Rhode Island, there are seven statewide questions on the ballot. Voters are being asked to decide everything from approving constitutional amendments to passing bonds to fund various programs.

In Massachusetts there are four questions on the ballot, from regulating conditions for farm animals to legalizing marijuana. This is where an individual voter has a say in government. You can find information online about all the ballot issues.

Many municipalities in Rhode Island have individual ballot questions. And some have elections for local offices. You have an impact on your town by voting.

There are few excuses that make sense on Nov. 8. Voting is a precious privilege that we should not take lightly.

There are still countries around the world where Election Day is violent and filled with fear. And there are countries where newly announced elections are cause for celebration, when people come out in huge numbers despite threats.

This election has caused many stress-related reactions. According to early data released by the American Psychological Association (for the upcoming annual report about stress in America), about half the people surveyed (52 percent) said that the election “is a very or somewhat significant source of stress in their lives.” The breakdown by party is about even. This poll was taken in August. Historical data isn’t available.

In October, an ABC news poll found that 46 percent of people agreed that the election was a source of stress in their lives.

Google “Election Stress Disorder.” That’s the name that some have coined for this very real psychological problem.

None of us needs more stress. Pretty soon, the stress of choosing will be over. I can’t help but think how lucky we are to be able to have this reaction. And while you are pondering the alternatives, don’t forget to vote.