I was recently speaking to a young woman (in her early 20s) and I asked her why she doesn’t vote?
Her response was, “I am always working, and my lunch hour is much too precious to waste voting.” I told her that the polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. so she could go before or after work. She did not say anything else but the look on her face suggested that she really had no interest in voting.
Kenai Peninsula voter turnout is abysmal. We are lucky to get 20% of registered voters to the polls. This is deeply concerning to me because even though voting didn’t seem to matter to her, it really matters to many borough residents whose lives are impacted by the decisions our local representatives make.
It matters to those who use CARTS to get to and from work every day. It matters to the single mother who lost her job due to funding decisions made by the borough administration. It matters to students who want to participate in the JumpStart program in order to get ahead in college credits before they even finish high school. It matters to vulnerable children who are helped by the Head Start program. It matters to all students who depend on our representatives to value their education and value their teachers. It matters to borough employees who provide vital services to all borough residents, for which their livelihood depends. They are all friends, neighbors, coaches and volunteers in our community.
This young woman is very kind and intelligent, so I know if she took the time to inform herself of the candidates and propositions, she would make good decisions when she voted that would benefit borough citizens. It seems the lower the voter turnout the more likely we are to get bad policy-makers in office that have their own agenda and are not concerned about doing what is best for the community. We need more young, busy, and hard-working community members using their voice at the polls to help the community thrive.
We have great benefits in the community for seniors — from the senior property tax exemption to the many great senior centers that we have in almost every community in the borough that provide great programs such as Meals on Wheels. And why do we have these great programs? Because seniors vote!
If we want a comprehensive community college with many options for growth, college-age students need to vote. If we want great programs and an excellent education for our children, parents of all ages need to vote. If you are a young woman making your own way, you need to vote for all these other people because someday you will be one of them and will need someone to help speak for you.
Your vote matters even if it does not matter to you. As a community we need to instill more empathy and civic responsibility in our citizens from a very young age. Everyone should be compelled to inform themselves and vote as a civic duty. We should make it as easy as possible for citizens to register, inform themselves, and vote. Our community does a pretty good job at this already so it is up to each of us to realize that even if we personally don’t have a stake in this election our friends and neighbors do, and we should show up for them.
If you have not or do not know if you are registered to vote, do it today!
Educate and inform yourself on your voter districts and what candidates and propositions you will be voting on today!
Then Vote on Oct. 1!
Carrie Henson, Soldotna