There's an election in two weeks?
In case you forgot, Tuesday, November 3rd is Election Day. With all the talk about 2016 and the seemingly endless presidential candidate news, it could be easy to overlook this “off-year” election. In fact, too many Mainers do just that. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap predicted that turnout this November could be as low as 15 to 20 percent. To put that in perspective, in November 2014 Mainers led the entire country with 58.5 percent turnout among eligible voters. And in 2012, the last presidential election, the turnout was 62.1 percent. This year, you could help make the difference and make your voice heard, while weighing in on important issues.
Every vote does count! Remember – there is power in numbers. When we vote, get our family members, fellow colleagues and volunteers to vote, we can influence outcomes and change the debate. Nonprofits are natural vehicles when it comes to civic engagement and encouraging voter participation. Organizations can set a good example by encouraging their employees to vote (Shameless plug: Simply circulate this blog post!) or giving them time off to go to the polls. There are also many resources available to support the people your organization serves to help them get registered and Get Out The Vote (GOTV!).
Here are 3 reasons why YOU should vote this Tuesday:
There’s stuff you care about on the ballot –
Statewide, there are three major issues on the ballot. The Referendum Election ballot will include three referendum questions – one citizen initiative and two bond issues.
- Question 1 involves strengthening the Maine Clean Election Act.
- Question 2 would authorize bond spending on construction of new energy-efficient affordable homes for low-income seniors.
- And Question 3 is a transportation bond that deals with funding improvements to roads and bridges.
What is on the municipal ballot will vary from town to town. In Portland and Lewiston there are mayoral races, other towns will have school board and city council elections, and some might have a special election for a vacancy at the State House. The folks elected will have serious influence in your community. Find your voting place, your elected officials, sample ballots and other election information by visiting the Maine Voter Information Lookup Service.
It’s really easy –
Maine was the first state to implement Same Day Voter registration in 1973. That’s means it’s never too late to register to vote. (Okay, fine, if you wait until Wednesday November 5th, you won’t get to vote until the next election in 2016…but let’s keep talking about 2015.) You can register to vote until, and including, Election Day. There is no cut-off date for registering to vote in person at your town office or city hall. On Election Day, you can register right at your polling place and then immediately cast your ballot. Mainers might take this service for granted, but in most other states voters must register by a deadline prior to Election Day. The deadline varies by state, with most falling between eight and 30 days before the election. (Not good for procrastinators.)
And if you are already registered, Maine law also makes it easy to cast an absentee ballot. You don’t have to be out-of-town or have any other reason to take advantage of this easy way to vote at a time that is most convenient for you. (You can vote from the comfort of your own couch!) Simply request your own ballot electronically using the Secretary of State’s online absentee ballot request service OR make a phone call to your town clerk. Just make your request by Thursday, October 29th to allow enough time for the ballot to be mailed to you and return it by Election Day. Or if you happen to be headed to your town hall for other business, you may vote absentee at the clerk’s office as soon as absentee ballots are available – 30 days before the election. You don’t need to complete an application if you vote in person at the clerk’s office. So, really, there is no excuse NOT to cast your ballot.
Voting is good for nonprofits –
I’m going to make a crazy assumption that you are on our website because you are employed by, looking to be employed by, or generally supportive of the nonprofit sector. So let’s discuss why voter engagement is a critical part of nonprofit work. Not only does it empower the people and the communities you serve, but it also helps further your missions. Nonprofit VOTE, a great source of nonpartisan resources for voter engagement, outlines the following benefits:
- Nonprofits create a more representative electorate
- Voter engagement boosts your advocacy
- Voter engagement makes you relevant during elections
- Voting gives power and voice to the people you serve
- YOU are effective! According to a study of the 2012 election, nonprofits had the biggest impact on turnout among least-likely voters.
You know that nonprofits must remain nonpartisan and not take sides for a candidate or party. However, nonpartisanship does not mean nonparticipation! Please vote – don’t let others decide for you who’s elected and what issues matter.