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Guest Commentary

Get out and vote on Nov. 6

Published: Monday, November 5, 2012 at 1:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 1:36 p.m.

Nov. 6, 2012 will be a very important day for this country. It may very well be a day that history looks back on as a date that changed America. Not one like Dec. 7, 1941 — “a date that will live in infamy,” as FDR put it, but one that will no doubt affect all of us in one way or another. For Tuesday, Nov. 6 2012 is Election Day. It is the day citizens of this country get to choose who will lead us into the future. That future may be bright or dim, depending on what type of job they do.

The right of citizens to vote in this country has existed for nearly 225 years. After the revolutionary war our newly created constitution guaranteed that right, a right that at the time was unheard of anywhere else in the world. Other countries were ruled by kings, emperors, tyrants, dictators, armies and the like. Common, everyday people electing leaders to govern, not rule their country was, just like the war of 1776, a revolutionary idea.

Numerous wars have been fought by thousands upon thousands of United States soldiers to defend our country and in turn, our right to vote. The war of 1812 kept us from being, once again, subjects of the British Crown. Following the Civil War, the 15th amendment was passed in 1870 and gave all African-Americans the right to vote. After World War I was won with help from the United States, the women's suffrage movement gained strength and in 1920 women were given the right to vote. World War II ended the reign of a crazed dictator and his vision of total world domination that did not include the right of citizens to vote. Can you imagine living in a country where you have absolutely no say in what your government does?

Voting should not be taken lightly, nor viewed as a chore. It should be viewed as a duty, I dare say an obligation, and should be given the most serious attention that one can give it. The right to vote has been defended with blood and lives over the years and we should recognize the sacrifices of so many to ensure our way of life — and the right to vote — by exercising that right at the ballot box.

Some will say it is a waste of time to vote as “my one vote won't make any difference.” The fact is your vote can very well decide the outcome of any given political race or proposition on the ballot. The 2008 United States Senate race in Minnesota between Al Franken and Norm Coleman was won by Franken with a margin of victory of just 312 votes in a state with 3,145,000 registered voters. Of course not all Minnesota voters voted in that election. Many thought their vote wouldn't make a difference and stayed home on election night. They fulfilled their own prophecy — their vote didn't make a difference — because they didn't cast it.

Growing up I would hear my father say that no one had the right to complain about the government or their elected officials if they didn't vote. I have always remembered that and since 1972, I have exercised my right to vote. I haven't always been happy with the outcome, but I keep voting. Sometimes the options are limited — choosing the lesser of two evils as some would say — but the option of staying home on election night should not even be considered.

Our country may very well be at a crossroads. The current economy, jobs, mortgages, credit card and other debt is quite different from just a few years ago. What our elected representatives do after Nov. 6 will impact not just our future, but the future of this great nation. Regardless of your party affiliation, age, gender, etc., please exercise your right and get out and vote!

(George F. Whitten is a machinist and a 35-year resident of Petaluma. He also serves on the board of directors of a local non-profit property management group.)

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