Apathy could be our biggest challenge this National Voter Registration Day

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Are you registered to vote? That is the question many people will be asking Tuesday — National Voter Registration Day. 

It will be an opportunity to see whether the recent presidential election has sparked a bang of enthusiasm or elicited a whimper of disillusionment. Certainly, continuing news reports of ongoing investigations, accusations of voter fraud and controversies over the new Election Integrity Commission make it easy to want to just disengage. Instead, we must recommit to this most important right of citizenship, not yet enshrined in the Constitution itself, but central to the health and longevity of our democracy. Our vote is our voice, our security and our power.

{mosads}Since our earliest days as a nation and continuing to the present day, there have been great sacrifices and struggles to secure and protect this right for all citizens. We are the beneficiaries of the dedication and tenacity of countless people, both well- and little-known, who suffered and mobilized and fought for the cause of universal suffrage. That necessary fight continues, but there is another growing threat to this bedrock principle of democracy — apathy.

 

How sadly ironic that at a time when voting is likely as easy as it has ever been, we find ourselves in a situation in which there has never been less confidence in the outcome. Amidst the winning party’s repeated, unfounded accusations of voter fraud in our most recent presidential election and a suggestion last week by the losing party that a legal challenge to the outcome has not been entirely ruled out, enthusiasm for the process itself is plummeting. And who can blame people for feeling disillusioned?

Near-daily revelations about the ongoing investigations into the extent of the Russians’ meddling are both critically important and terribly unsettling. We already know something about the Russians’ use of Facebook and other social media to manipulate facts, spread falsehoods and whip discrete populations into division and anger. In these uncharted territories, it is critical that we step back to assess the damage to our psyches — both individual and collective.

The good news is that we don’t have to wait for our politicians to fix this. In fact, the power and duty to fix it belongs to us alone. As citizens we can start to repair the damage by rejecting the social media frenzy, the 24-hour news cycle and a culture that glorifies showmanship over substance. As voters, we must be more engaged, levelheaded, better educated and learn to nurture a healthy skepticism.

 

We must recommit to studying the issues, resetting our attention spans and acknowledging that important issues are almost always too complex to be fully explained, much less resolved, in short snippets or even long articles. We must be diligent about evaluating sources of information for bias, accuracy and relevancy.

We have to correct the increasingly prevalent notion that all opinions are of equal value, and insist on the necessity of expertise and scientific inquiry. We need to criticize constructively, disagree civilly and reengage outside the digital world. That’s a start.

Next, we must build a coalition that will work together to reform campaign finance, stop voter disenfranchisement and suppression, fight gerrymandering, ensure the modernization and security of election systems, control electioneering communications, demand candidate qualifications, and create clear constitutional solutions to 21st century problems. These issues can no longer be left in the hands of those whose own self-interest conflicts with that of the citizenry. And we can’t wait until the constitutional crisis hits before we start to take action.

This is a time for creativity, optimism, cooperation and patriotism. Above all else, every eligible citizen must value and vigorously protect the right to vote. So please register to vote, encourage others to do the same, and then join us in getting to work, so that our “government of the people, by the people, for the people might not perish from the earth.”

Diana Bate Hardy is a graduate of Brigham Young University Law School and has recently taken a break from civil litigation to focus on raising her young daughter. She is the director of Education and Learning for Mormon Women for Ethical Government (MWEG), a nonpartisan grassroots organization of over 5,000 women dedicated to the ideals of decency, honor, accountability, transparency and justice in governing.

Tags Diana Bate Hardy Election Day Voter registration

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