You, Austin, are hereby being called out. We are rightfully proud of a lot of stuff — over the last few weeks Austin ranked #1 in a whole handful of best of lists — but we suck at voting. Seriously, we suck.
On Saturday we get an opportunity to prove it once again. Austin, please prove me wrong. Prove to me that you give a damn.
Yeah, I know, everyone in town plans to vote in the big presidential election this November and that's fantastic. But you want to make a difference in your community, if you want to truly affect your own little slice of these United States, you have to vote local.
Nothing means more than a vote for your local government. Local government affects your life everyday; everything from your local taxes, to trash pick-up, to whether you get paper, plastic or nothing at the grocery checkout. That means you cannot just drive past one those VOTE HERE signs, you have to turn in to make a difference.
It's not really surprising that so many of us have lost the will to fight anymore. "They're all alike," " I can't make a difference," "It's all set up anyway," are common refrains.
This city election may turn out the lowest percentage of voters in Austin's history. The current record low is seven percent, set in 2000. If the early voting trend this year holds out, we'll be closing in on that record — only 2.9 percent of voters cast ballots in early voting this month.
Austin, this is pathetic. Back in 1971 over 50 percent of voters turned out for city elections.
In a town where every yahoo and freak sitting within ear's reach has an opinion on traffic, the environment, education, gentrification, salamanders, paper vs plastic, Austin Energy's budget, closing Riverside Drive or any other of the hundreds of issues facing us, how can anyone justify not taking five minutes (believe me there are no lines to wait in) to vote.
On Saturday, Austin is set to elect or re-elect a Mayor and three city council members. Austin enjoys a pretty simple government structure, everyone runs at-large. That means you get to vote for every open seat on the council. Maybe you don't like that idea. Maybe you would prefer to see that changed so you have a single council person representing your district. You know how you change that? You vote!
Oh, sorry, yes, I hear you; you don't know anything about the people running so you don't want to make an uninformed choice. I call bullshit on that. In fact, I'm here to help. Here are a few quick links you can peruse in order to make an informed choice:
There, no excuse for being ignorant anymore.
Voting is a right granted us by our constitution. You know what happens to rights when you don't exercise them? You lose them. If you don't vote, you lose the right to bitch about your stupid city leaders and their assinine decisions; you lose the right to tell me I'm full of shit; you lose the right to swim in Barton Springs (ok, you don't, but it would be a good motivator right?).
For all the polarization in our political system today, it's not really surprising that so many of us have lost the will to fight anymore. "They're all alike," " I can't make a difference," "It's all set up anyway" are common refrains.
I'm here to tell you it's not. If we all answered our call to civic duty, we would truly hold the power — the power of holding our elected leaders accountable to our will — the will of the people. When a pathetic 10 percent of us vote, our leaders can easily look at the other 90 percent and assume everything is just fine — "If they really cared, they would vote, right?"
Voting is our civic duty. It is our obligation to our democratic form of government. Voting separates America from those fake, autocratic, authoritarian regimes that are so prevalent around the world.
When we don't vote, when we neglect to engage in our hard won right to cast a ballot, those authoritarian regimes win. "Look at those Americans, they don't vote. Why should I allow my country that right?" (OK, it's probably a little more complicated than that, but you get the point.)
So prove me wrong Austin... well... actually never mind. When only 10 percent of you vote, you give my vote 10 times the power. Yeah, every vote counts 10 times more. I like that because I know what I'm doing when I vote.
You get back what you give Austin. If you don't give a damn, what do you get?
Don't know where to vote? You can look here at the Travis County Elections Division list or by calling 512-238-VOTE.