Opinion

Why Your Vote Is More Important This Year Than Ever Before

What you do in November could change the future of our country.

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Courtesy / Morgan McMullen
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Every Tuesday for the next five weeks, former senator Barbara Boxer and her filmmaker and activist daughter, Nicole Boxer, who host a political podcast together, will breakdown everything you need to know about the midterms, from the issues at stake to the candidates who deserve our vote. Women have suffered some tough blows recently, but we can fight back. This week, the mother-daughter duo each explain why voting—especially this year—is vital.


Every time we ran for public office (“we” because it’s always been a family endeavor), my advisers reminded us that “elections are about the future.” In 1994 we learned an invaluable political lesson about elections and the future from former Governor Ann Richards, a legendary one-of-a-kind, give ‘em hell Governor, a true Texas Democrat before Texas turned bright red. Upon losing her tough, re-election fight to George W. Bush, she told a group of aspiring female leaders, “Voters really didn’t give a hoot about what I done, only about what I was going to do for them. I was so proud of my accomplishments with our budget, with our economy—I just blew it.”

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Warning: In politics, the future is now!

I never would have won my Senate race in 1992, without the Clinton/Gore ticket. They pulled out enthusiastic voters keeping their eyes on the promise of America. Even their campaign theme song (Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow”) boasted optimistically about the future. Empowered female voters outraged by what they saw happen in the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings joined in with the trustworthy democratic base, and newly minted young voters to lift all progressive candidates. Unlike Presidential elections before it, 1992 sparkled with the vibrancy of youthful possibilities. America Rocked the Vote.

One of the first laws the Clinton Administration passed was a law to make voting easier. The “Motor Voter” Bill allowed voters to register as they received their Driver’s License. That idea was revolutionary. We need similar proposals to revolutionize voting in 2018.

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Barbara voting in her campaign for re-election in 2010.
Reed Saxon/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Here are a few ideas: 1) Make Election Day a National Holiday so voters don’t have to go to work or school and can therefore patiently wait in line, and/or 2) Make election day a Saturday or Sunday so that most people are already free to head to the polls, and 3) Consider reforms that make voting easier while not passing laws that restrict voting, like voter ID laws, which discriminate against minority and lower income voters.

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Lastly, let’s pass legislation to finally abolish the Electoral College, the outdated system by which the states actually choose the President. I authored a bill that would do exactly that before I retired from the U.S. Senate in 2016. Sadly, that bill was deemed dead on arrival, blocked by Republicans in the Senate leadership.

My mother, an immigrant, made the art of voting a central pride in her life and taught me to value this right.

After all, if a true Democracy is one person, one vote, let’s put our money where our mouths are. If we did, we’d be celebrating not only the 100-year anniversary of women getting the right to vote in 2020, but also the re-election of our first female President of the United States.

My mother, who was born in 1911 and came to Ellis Island as an immigrant from Austria as a child, made the art of voting a central pride in her life and taught me to value this right. There are many fine change candidates out there who deserve your vote. We don’t expect you to agree with them 100 percent of the time, but if they are ready to change the current course and lead America, then they deserve your support.

This election, more than any, is about the future and here is why: We have two more years of Donald Trump as president. We know how he has led our country and how he has divided it. We know his view on climate change (that basically, it should be ignored). We know his view on women’s health (that we need to be punished if we exercise our right to choose). We know how he feels about the press and how he embraces tyrants. We know he has taken children away from their parents at the border, which I consider to be state-sponsored kidnapping.

So what will happen in the future if we don’t vote for change in the House and Senate elections this November? All this will continue unchecked and the future will be filled with more of the same. If we do vote for change, his policies will be checked and our future may not be perfect, but—if you agree with us that Trump’s policies are dangerous and destructive to America—it will be better.

So vote. Vote for change and let your voice be heard. It’s your future, like it or not.

—Barbara Boxer

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Every election cycle begins and ends with the saying, “This is the most important election of our lifetime.” My mom has been telling me that my entire voting life. It was true when I first voted in a Presidential election 1992, and it’s more true now, than ever.

Our values as patriotic Americans are being tested. We watch as immigrant families come to America seeking a better life of opportunity, free of violence and poverty—like my own once did—only to be cruelly separated from each other. Children are interned in makeshift camps while their parents face the brutal reality of choosing between deportation or jail as they await a hearing. All this in the name of national security, while our country becomes further divided over immigration.

Votes cannot undo immigration policy in one fell swoop, but votes can elect a new Congress with the oversight to uncover and establish the truth. If Congress disagrees with the administration’s policy, they can defund the program and put an end to the crisis.

This issue alone challenges women to consider what it means to be American. Are we a morally just, compassionate nation upholding the promise of the words emblazoned on the Statue of Liberty herself? Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Or are we something else entirely? This November you have the power to decide that. If you have never voted before this is your time.

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Female suffragettes at the turn of the 20th century.
Bettmann

I’ve worked in the youth voter space to encourage participatory democracy for 30 years. First, as youth outreach director for Clinton/Gore ‘96 in partnership with Rock The Vote, and, since 2010, as a board member of Headcount. Headcount started as a small group of rock stars activating their fans, and has grown to include partnerships with grassroots, cultural movements like “March For Our Lives.”

The rap has been that teens and 20-somethings are an unreliable voting block, and throughout history this has been true. But consider this idea, and push back. People in power don’t want young people to vote because young people tend to vote against the status quo. They vote for people, not corporations. This election cycle is being driven by fresh, multi-cultural first-time candidates; candidates who reject corporate money and rely on people-powered canvassing. Millions of female voters have joined forces with the Women’s March. Youth voters are inspired by the Parkland students, not only to register, but to support candidates who will pass sensible, gun safety laws, rejecting “thoughts and prayers” incumbents. Headcount’s slogan “Just Fucking Vote” is resonating this election cycle.

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As a motivating reminder, the highest youth voter turnout in history was in 2012 when Barack Obama won 67 percent of the youth vote. Our nation had never seen turnout numbers like this before, but President Obama energized young Americans and gave them something to believe in: LGBTQ rights, equal pay for women, and universal health care, were all on the ballot along with him. In 2018 the youth can do it again.

When we become cynical about voting, we think our vote doesn’t matter, or that all candidates are the same. That creates an opening for powerful special interests to influence campaigns in alignment with backwards facing policies, like climate change denial and restricting women’s rights. The special interests in power are counting on your apathy. Prove them wrong, because it is the most important election of your lifetime. And it’s your future.

—Nicole Boxer

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