National Voter Registration Day is today, September 25th, and in light of all the efforts by Republican legislatures to disenfranchise people from voting, it holds significant importance.
According to their website, NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org, "6 million Americans didn't vote because they missed a registration deadline or didn't know how to register" in 2008. This alone is ridiculous and a number large enough to have an effect on an election, especially on the state and local level.
Each state has different requirements for registering which can make it confusing for people, especially with new voter ID laws, that is why it is important for people to check their registration now so they aren't surprised at the polls come election day.
CanIVote.org is a good overall resource to check your voter registration status, polling place, and what sort of ID (if any) you need to bring. Once you select your state you're taken to that state's Board of Elections page where you can get more information on the particular guidelines required by your state.
The Brennan Center for Justice has also put together a student voting guide to help college students understand the ins and outs of voting where they're attending school. With places like Pennsylvania and Tennessee no longer allowing student IDs this is an important resource for students to know exactly what is required of them to cast a ballot. The youth vote is a vitally important one and one Republicans don't want to show up, because they tend to vote Democrat, as New Hampshire's State House Leader Bill O'Brien pointed out on tape.
Looking past the efforts to disenfranchise voters made by more than a couple states this election cycle, many states have made it easier than ever before to vote. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia allow early voting starting before the election and all states will mail an absentee ballot to certain voters, most of which will mail it to you without an excuse as to why you're missing the in person vote.
I can certainly appreciate the arguments made from people who choose not to vote based on the corruption in the process or their unhappiness with the two-party system, etc. However, as someone who was raised with the voting gene in my blood I cannot imagine not voting, especially in local and state elections where the policy voted on is likely the policy that will most affect you. If you don't vote and don't let your voice be heard can you really complain about the policies and laws taking affect?
There is a lot at stake this election. Washington, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota all have marriage equality initiatives on the ballot and for the first time ever these states might see the measure pass in a ballot referendum. The next president will likely be able to appoint more judges to the Supreme Court. Congress will take up important issues, which will likely include the Farm Bill. State and local legislatures will take up issues of education funding and taxation, which could have lasting impacts on its citizens.
With 15.9 percent of our citizens living in poverty and 24.5 percent of children under the age of 6 living in poverty this election matters. These are the people who are part of the notorious 47 percent. Let's show our candidates that regardless of our tax bracket our voices can be heard. We have a duty for ourselves and for the generations that follow to elect people with the common man's interests at heart.
As President James Garfield once said, "Now more than ever the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption."
Check your status. Utilize all the information you have to obtain what you need to vote. Register to vote. Encourage your friends to do the same. Volunteer to register people or inform them of new voter ID laws. Work at the polls on Election Day (or in the weeks before). Then sit back and watch democracy in action.