Millions of people will vote this year. Will you?
Congressman John Lewis, who was jailed 40 times during the civil rights movement, expressed it eloquently when he said: "It is so important for people to understand, to know that people suffered, struggled. Some people bled, and some died, for the right to participate."
Taking up the challenge to help people exercise this precious, hard-fought-for privilege, the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County is supporting National Voter Registration Day -- today, Sept. 24 - because if you're not registered, you can't vote.
It's an off-year election with no presidential debates or hot Senate races to capture your eye. So why is voting so important? Because the people we elect will make decisions that will affect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the roads we drive on, the taxes we pay, the schools our children go to and the opportunities they have afterward.
Every voter in the cities, towns and countryside of Whatcom County will get to choose four members of the County Council- a majority of that body. This council will face thorny questions concerning water rights and growth management. It will decide whether to grant permits for a terminal facility at Cherry Point to export millions of tons of coal each year.
Wherever they live in Whatcom County, every registered voter can also vote for two port commissioners - a majority of its three members. The port commission, together with the Bellingham City Council, will decide the future of waterfront development at the Georgia Pacific site. Four City Council seats - also a majority - are on the ballots of Bellingham voters.
Two statewide initiatives will decide whether to require labeling on genetically modified food, I-522, or to make changes in the initiative process, I-517.
Voting on these candidates and issues makes the difference between just complaining or actively participating in government. But you can't register your choices if you don't register to vote by Oct. 28.
Until Oct. 7, you can register by mail or register online at myvote.wa.gov. The League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County is placing registration forms at public places including all libraries and senior centers, and will be registering voters at public events around the county.
After Oct. 7, you must register in person at the Whatcom County Auditor's office, 311 Grand Ave., Bellingham. You can call the office at 360-676-6742.
Once registered, there are many sources of information about candidates and issues available.
One non-partisan source is the league's interactive website: Vote411.org that provides side-by-side candidate answers to questions on major issues. Another is attending one of three forums co-hosted by the league and City of Bellingham on Oct. 10, 19 and 24.
The city's public access television channel, BTV10, will air the forums live, rerun them several times and make them available on demand on the city's website cob.org/services/education/btv10. Radio stations KMRE-LP and KAVZ-LP will also repeat the audio.
You can find details about these forums in The Bellingham Herald, our media partner, and on the City of Bellingham website cob.org/services/education/btv10 or the league's website lwvbellinghamwhatcom.org.
People sacrificed so we could mark our ballots - from our founding fathers who fought a revolution, to the suffragists who went to jail for advocating votes for women, to the freedom marchers, some of whom gave their lives for this right.
Your vote is a voice that echoes the voices of all those who struggled so hard so that you can speak. The League of Women Voters urges you to use it. Register and vote.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jayne Freudenberger wrote this for the The League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County. Vote-by-mail ballots will be mailed Oct. 19 and the general election is Nov. 5.