Op-Ed

Your ballot makes a difference, but you have to register to vote

Monday, Oct. 31, 2016, is the deadline to register in person to vote in the Nov. 8 election for president. Washington voters will also choose governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor, attorney general, commissioner of public lands, superintendent of public instruction, insurance commissioner and two supreme court justices and a senator. Whatcom County voters will also select U.S. representatives, one of our Washington state senators and representatives in our state legislature. You must postmark your ballot or drop it in a ballot box by Nov. 8.
Monday, Oct. 31, 2016, is the deadline to register in person to vote in the Nov. 8 election for president. Washington voters will also choose governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor, attorney general, commissioner of public lands, superintendent of public instruction, insurance commissioner and two supreme court justices and a senator. Whatcom County voters will also select U.S. representatives, one of our Washington state senators and representatives in our state legislature. You must postmark your ballot or drop it in a ballot box by Nov. 8. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Millions of people will vote this year. Will you?

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who was jailed 40 times during the civil rights movement, eloquently 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.”

Does one vote matter?

Each of these elected officials will make decisions that affect our everyday lives – our health care, transportation system, schools and our local economy.

In 1948, President Harry Truman carried Ohio and California by less than one vote per precinct, thereby winning enough electoral votes to give him the presidency. And in 1960, one vote change in each precinct would have defeated John F. Kennedy.

Close to home, we have many important initiatives and leadership roles to be elected, and former California Secretary of State Bill Jones documented that a single vote can make a difference at the local level. There are instances where a city council member, school board director, county council member or a special district member – such as water board or fire district – has been elected by one vote.

Clearly, one vote matters.

In the Nov. 8 election, we must choose governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor, attorney general, commissioner of public lands, superintendent of public instruction, insurance commissioner and two Supreme Court justices. And we will elect our representatives to Congress, one of our Washington state senators and representatives in our state Legislature.

Each of these elected officials will make decisions that affect our everyday lives – our health care, transportation system, schools and our local economy.

We must decide on six state initiatives:

▪ Initiative 732 concerns a tax on carbon emissions.

▪ Initiative 735 concerns a proposed amendment to the federal Constitution.

▪ Initiative 1433 concerns labor standards.

▪ Initiative 1464 concerns campaign finance laws and lobbyists.

▪ Initiative 1491 concerns court-issued, extreme-risk protection orders temporarily preventing access to firearms.

▪ Initiative 1501 concerns seniors and vulnerable individuals.

But that is not all, Whatcom County voters will be asked to approve a tax levy to fund our emergency medical services and Bellingham voters will decide on the Greenways IV levy and a Bellingham School District levy. All are investments in your future.

Register and vote

But to get your ballot and vote, you must be registered at your current residence. Have you moved recently or changed your name? It’s easy and safe to update your voter registration in Washington – go to the Washington Secretary of State website, or walk into the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office at 311 Grand Ave., Suite 103, in Bellingham to register in person.

Monday, Oct. 10, is the deadline to register online or by mail.

Monday, Oct. 31, is the deadline to register in person.

Your vote makes a difference. Your vote is your voice to speak out on so many important issues facing our community. Who will decide about your taxes, your health care, your schools as well as important issues about our economy? Let your voice be part of the decision.

Some say they don’t feel sufficiently informed about the issues to cast their vote. There is time to get information. The League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County will offer three forums where you can hear from candidates and ask your questions. The forums are open to the public and will be held in the Council Chamber in Bellingham City Hall:

▪ Saturday, Oct. 15, candidates for congressional Districts 1 and 2, plus the Bellingham Greenways IV levy and the Whatcom County EMS levy.

▪ Tuesday, Oct. 18, candidates for 42nd Legislative District Representatives and 40th Legislative District Senate.

▪ Saturday, Oct. 22, pro/con discussion of several Washington state ballot issues.

Details are available on the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County’s website.

The league is a nonpartisan organization, and it never endorses candidates or political parties. However, the league developed an online voters guide showing how candidates respond to questions about myriad issues facing us. Every candidate was asked to participate. Go to Vote411.org to see and compare their responses. Find out where they stand and make your decisions to cast an informed vote in the Nov. 8 election.

Annette Holcomb is voter service chair of the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County.

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