Everyone wants free and fair elections. They also want the elected candidate to be someone who will represent the values of a majority of the people. As the voting population goes up, the likelihood that elected candidates will represent the majority of the people goes up. The opposite is also true; as the voting population goes down, a representative government is more challenging to achieve.

Because of the coronavirus, voting in this election requires more diligence than in past elections. According to News Center Maine, “Pandemic fears were a big reason roughly 80 percent of Mainers voted absentee in the primaries. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap anticipates the same thing will happen in the November election.”

Because the Post Office cannot deliver a regular flow of mail on time right now, a dramatic increase in the volume of mail for this election could mean many absentee ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted. For that reason, Secretary Dunlap recommends sending your ballot 10 days to two weeks before the election to ensure it will arrive in time for your vote to be counted.

A more reliable way to ensure your absentee ballot is delivered on time is to bring your ballot to your city clerk or town office. Some still prefer to vote in person on Election Day, and that’s OK too. Just remember that wearing a mask and practicing social distancing when you deliver your ballot or vote in person will minimize your coronavirus risk.

The most important thing, no matter the challenges, is to make your voice heard through your vote.

I encourage everyone to vote, regardless of party. Gaining the right to vote was a hard fight that continues today, yet some people don’t exercise that right. There are various excuses for not voting — believing your vote doesn’t matter, or that the person who should be elected is not on the ballot.

Over the last 10 years, I have helped get out the vote no matter what party the voter supports. Whenever I encountered a person who was not voting, I usually didn’t let them off the hook with the above excuses. When pressed, many people asked, “You really want to know why I don’t vote? I’ll tell you.” In most cases, the person was well informed about the issues and cared deeply about their community. Many cited a combination of gerrymandering, voter suppression and dark money in politics for concluding voting was an exercise in futility.

I agree that all of the above can make it overwhelmingly difficult to face the obstacles and, as the British saying goes, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning author, poet and social critic James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” I agree, and most of the time, the non-voters I speak with agree too.

Did they get out and vote? Who knows. One time I talked to a person in a wheelchair who was not going to vote. After I used the above quote, and some other encouraging quotes, he decided to vote. Being in a wheelchair presented some problems for him. Fortunately, I was working with volunteers who would drive voters to the polls. A phone call later, and this man was on his way to vote.

As for the best candidate not being on the ballot, I love to tell people elections are not about electing the best candidate for the position. Alarmed, most people ask in dismay, “What are elections for then?” My retort is always, “Elections are about electing the best person running; big difference.” If you decide not to vote because your favorite candidate is not on the ballot, you have also decided to help elect the candidate you like the least.

No matter what problems you have in getting out to vote, no matter how challenging this election is for you, vote either in person or absentee and let your voice be heard. As I said above, as the number of people who vote goes up, the likelihood that the candidate who gets elected will represent most of the voters goes up too.

Let this election be an opportunity for you to have a voice in America’s future.

Tom Waddell is president of the Maine Chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. He welcomes comments at: [email protected]

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