Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

July 30, 2012

TIDBITS: Rock the vote on Thursday

CROSSVILLE — Another election day is fast upon us. Thursday, voters will go to the polls and select candidates for the state house of representatives, U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. In addition, Cumberland County voters will be selecting school board members for the second, fourth, sixth and eighth civil districts, and will elect a commissioner to fill the unexpired term of late 9th District Commissioner Clyde Cramer.

Participating in the democratic process is one of the responsibilities of citizenship, along with supporting and defending the Constitution, defending the country if the need should arise, serving on a jury and respecting and obeying federal, state and local laws. What do we get for those responsibilities? The freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness; freedom to worship as we choose without coercion or penalty; freedom to express our views; and freedom to ask the government for redress of grievances. These rights and responsibilities are not to be taken lightly, and being an informed voter is important.

On March 12, 1996, I took part in my first election, casting my ballot in the presidential preference primary on Super Tuesday. It was two days after my 18th birthday, but election laws had allowed me to register in time to participate in my first election. I thank the Rock the Vote movement that began in 1992 that helped young people to be aware of how to register to vote and how to get involved in their government. It helped to connect voters to local election offices.

MTV, with its hordes of young viewers, helped offer the "Choose or Lose" bus that registered almost 40,000 voters in advance of the 1996 presidential election. In Fentress County, the election office personnel had boots on the ground at the local high schools, setting up during lunches to register young voters. I thank them for taking the initiative to do so because, honestly, I was confused as to how I could register for an election being held only two days after I reached the age of majority.

In addition to voter registration, the program also helped connect young people to information on candidates and how to become active in their local communities. It mobilized a generation to stand up and be counted, and it helped educate youth on the importance of taking part in their government. Now, 20 years after Rock the Vote began, those same young people are taking leadership roles in our government, businesses and communities.

Since that first election in 1996, I haven't missed one yet. It's just as important to me now as it was all those years ago.

Now we have lots of programs that make casting your ballot easier and more convenient. Many take part in the early voting period, which allows registered voters to vote at the election commission office prior to election day. It can be faster and easier, allowing those that work in town the convenience of stopping by the election commission office as they go about their business. Present your state or federal photo ID and the nice folks at the office will set up your ballot and allow you to cast the vote for the candidates of your choice.

With the primary election and county general election again falling during the 127 Corridor Sale, it's a huge help to those who's voting precinct is located along Hwy. 127, as mine is. But I can't help but prefer the excitement of election day. There's just something in the air, I guess — a feeling of expectation and hope.

Outside the polling places, past the boundary markers, you will often see friends and relatives of candidates taking the opportunity to get their candidate's name in your mind before you enter the polling place. It's hot, hard work. When I was a youngster, members of my family made the decision to run for public office and, though unable to vote, the teens were put to work handing out cards and helping put up election signs. On election day, we were shuttled to the polling place, advised where to stand and left to shake hands and ask people to support our candidate.

I commend those who have decided to run for office. Serving the public can be hard work and it's often thankless, with someone always second guessing decisions. It's a lot like the news business. You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.

Those who will be taking office in September, I look forward to working with you. To the candidates that will face off again in November, best of luck and may you have a positive campaign experience.

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