To Do Your Part for Good Government
By Mary Westwood, Chair of the Yellowstone County Platform Committee
(Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, but the words of the Montana Democratic Platform are available to all and should encourage discussion and understanding among all Montanans.)
Good government is born, fostered and nurtured by the people of the United States through the ballot. Voters have a chance every few years to support the people who really represent them and get rid of the people who have failed to do a good job for them. Here in Montana, we teach our children that voting is a privilege and a responsibility. As a poll watcher, I have always been happy to see a parent bring their children to the polling place to see how ordinary people participate in their government.
These days, many people spout a distrust and disillusionment with government. Some people even say they don’t vote because it doesn’t make a difference. If you don’t vote, it won’t make a difference. You need to be sure you are registered and that you will have access to voting, either in person or by absentee. Now is a great time to check your status by going to My Voter Page on the Montana Secretary of State’s website or by calling the local Yellowstone County Election Department at (406)256-2740.
Recently, our School Board election in Billings showed us again how a few votes can make a big difference. In that election, less than 100 votes separated the winners from the losers in all School Board races (margins were 87, 67, 43 and 1). In the case of Brian Yates and John Von Langen, a single vote decided the race in Von Langen’s favor. Only 39,864 people voted in all the school elections in Yellowstone County out of the 97,775 registered voters. Isn’t the education of children an important issue in our community?
The other obligation a voter has is to inform themselves about the candidates and the issues. That does not mean just blindly believing what a candidate or special interest group tells you. It means doing your own research on the actions a candidate has taken and the progress that has been made on the issues of importance to you. It is amazing how many candidates promise one thing and do the exact opposite. So make yourself an informed voter and you will be doing your job in creating good government.
If we are going to achieve President Abraham Lincoln’s vision of a “government of the people, by the people and for the people” as he described it in his famous Gettysburg Address, all citizens need to vote in every election. THAT MEANS YOU! And, as Lincoln recognized in his well known speech, government is a crucial means to complete the unfinished business of creating a nation where all people are equal and realize their full potential as citizens of our country. The United States Constitution describes how government should function, but it is the people who must hold government accountable for its actions and make sure that elected, appointed and employed officials continuously work for the interests of all citizens.
Your right to vote is a precious gift and an awesome responsibility. Use it wisely.