The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 27, 2000

Now more than ever, your vote is vital

By The Building Tradesman

"Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country." - Samuel Adams

Our nation's Founding Fathers had a firm understanding of the power of a voting democracy, setting up an electoral system that's a model for the world.

Unfortunately, many Americans who could take advantage of the electoral process, don't - and as a result, candidates who get into office don't necessarily reflect the wishes of the people they represent.

On Tuesday, Nov. 7, you have the opportunity to make sure that the politicians who work for you truly represent your interests when it comes to setting policy and making laws. This is the last opportunity before the election for us to emphasize one important point about how vital your vote is in the toss-up state of Michigan.

"Illinois and Ohio are lining up behind Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush, respectively," said the Wall Street Journal last week, "but that still leaves enough Electoral College votes to make (the Midwest) the most important region in the final push. Missouri carries 11 votes, while Minnesota has 10, but the prize is Michigan with 18."

Historically, the union vote has made the difference in Michigan, and this year won't be any different. There are 600,000 active union members and 200,000 union retirees in Michigan. In 1992, after 12 years of GOP control in the White House with Ronald Reagan and George Bush, union members made up 19 percent of the total U.S. vote, helping to put President Clinton in office. That number dipped to 13 percent in 1994 (when Newt Gingrich and the "Republican Revolution" came into Congress), increased to 19 percent in the presidential year of 1996 when Clinton won again, and surged to 23 percent in 1998 when Democrats came within a whisper of re-taking control of the U.S House of Representatives.

There's all kinds of attention on the presidency - Al Gore has spent $5 million on campaigning in our state, and George W. Bush has spent $4 million - but the ballot will be filled with equally important offices that also deserve your attention.

It is remarkable how many important races are packed onto the Nov. 7 ballot. Besides the presidency, there are 465 U.S. House contests that will determine the control of that legislative body. In Michigan, control of the state Supreme Court is up for grabs. All 110 seats in the Michigan House of Representatives are up for election, which will determine if organized labor has any influence at all over the next two years in the Lansing lawmaking process. Judgeships are up for re-election all over the state.

"For 47 days (until the election) Michigan will be the center of the conflict between the Democrats and Republicans for control of the House," said President Clinton during a visit to our state last month.

County commissioners, sheriffs, prosecutors, clerks and other offices are on the ballot. Then there are the scores of local city and township offices that affect how our local communities are operated.

So the battle turns to increasing voter education, which this paper has tried to provide over the past few months, and decreasing voter apathy, which is a never-ending battle.

In 1998, only 36.4 percent of all registered voters went to the polls to cast their ballots - the lowest voter turnout since 1942. Two out of three Americans, 115 million eligible voters, simply stayed home and didn't vote at all.

"Should things go wrong at any time, the people will set them to right by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights," said Thomas Jefferson. But first, the voters have to see fit to send in their absentee ballot or go to the polls.