Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A busy woman’s guide to being an informed voter

BY: Nancy Poling, author of Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a Woman and Out of the Pumpkin Shell

When I think of scary election scenarios, I imagine David Duke in his Grand Master of the Ku Klux Klan garb sitting at a desk in front of the state seal of Louisiana. In 1991 he ran for governor there and got 39% of the votes. He didn’t win because black voters turned out. That’s why I refuse to let cynicism over American politics overpower my determination to make my political voice count—because the voices of a group of like-minded voters can make a difference.
If we allow ourselves to be convinced that politics is dirty, that all politicians are dishonest, that the world’s headed for disaster anyway—so why do anything?—there’s no chance of rectifying the situation. Our disinterest will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The alternative is to be like the black voters in Louisiana in 1991, to be informed and mobilize our forces.
It’s the being informed I want to address here.
Political campaigns depend on our not keeping up on current events. In the weeks leading up to an election, sound bytes and misinformation blast the media. There’s usually something to fear—ISIS, ebola, criminals, big government—and those who haven’t been paying much attention respond to the fear that best fits their situation.
Unfortunately staying informed requires time and energy, two luxuries most working women don’t have. How might a woman fit it into her already hectic schedule? I’ve got a few suggestions:
1.) Set a reasonable goal. You’re not likely to have enough time to be well informed on every topic.
2.) Just like you schedule exercise, set a goal of reading or listening to current topics for fifteen minutes a day. You can do it while you pedal the exercise bike, commute to work, or by grabbing a little time for yourself at the end of the day. (Beware the gym that keeps the TV tuned to Fox News.)
3.) Pick one or two issues that matter the most to you. For me they’re the environment and racial justice—though I glance at news related to all events of that day. Here are a few websites that may coincide with your interests. Environmental issues: sierraclub.org/planet. Racial justice issues: naacp.org/blog. Women’s issues: huffingtonpost.com/women/.  There are plenty of sites out there, but be sure if you’re googling the topic to choose a reliable source. I find that a search on Twitter under “feminist,” “environment,” or “racial justice” connects me with people who’ve already done the hard work of locating informative material.
4.) Check on what your representatives are doing. Many post on Facebook. Does their voting reflect your values? Also pay attention to what elected officials at the state level are talking about. By the time the election comes around you’ll know whether you want to vote for or against them.
Fifty years ago, John Lewis was in the front line of people crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. He and others marched—put their lives at risk—for the right of African Americans to vote. Lewis has said, “The vote is precious. It’s almost sacred. It’s the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society.”

Let’s use that tool responsibly. 

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