Vote early, vote often

It’s time for a bit of prosthelytizing from me, to those of you who are perhaps less politically engaged.

Many of you know that I’m a member of the SurgeonsPAC Board of Directors, a role in which I am honored to serve my profession.  The Health Policy and Advocacy team at the American College of Surgeons rolled out an exciting new program this year, Surgeons Voice; the goal of Surgeons Voice is to educate our members on how to be effective grassroots advocates for our profession and our patients.  Much like many non-profit organizations, one of the key principles is to make advocacy easy for our members- simply sign in, see what you need to act on, push a button and BAM!  Letter to your representative done.

We have also have created a tiered advocacy system, ranging from Beginner to Advanced, depending up on time, experience, and issue salience, with recommended activities for each of these levels.  While the Beginner moves are captured within the Surgeons Voice website (see my above description), what it excludes is the most basic thing that we can all do.


Yes, you read that right.  I’m reminding you to vote. I’m not telling you to donate to a candidate, or go do canvassing or literature drops for them, or anything that’s going to push you our of your comfort zone if you haven’t worked in this world before.  Vote, it’s as simple as that.

Here’s the thing.  It’s a midterm election, and even though there has been huge spending (see this Politico piece about outside spending in the Iowa race; thanks, Supreme Court, for that pesky Citizens United decision), midterm election turnout is historically 15-20% lower than in Presidential election years.  What that means to you, informed citizen, is that your vote is likely to count more- relatively speaking- in a midterm year.  In 2012, a Presidential election year, Representative Jim Matheson won by only 768 votes; in a midterm year, those results can change incredibly easily with fewer voters even heading to the polls.  And sometimes, just sometimes, surprise victories happen based upon better-than-predicted voter turnout among certain population segments- though I’ll confess that Clayton Williams did put his boot in his mouth more than once in ways that helped mobilize Ann Richards’ base.

I early voted on Friday.  I live in an electorally safe district in some weird ways- safe for the Republicans for the US legislature (Utah’s House districts give new meaning to “gerrymandered”- Matheson switched out of this district after it was drawn in 2010), safe for the Democrats for the Utah House and Senate.  It can be argued that my vote didn’t matter, and that may well be true if the renewal of the Zoo, Arts, and Parks program happens by a generous margin.  But…I voted.  It’s my responsibility as an advocate.  It’s my privilege as a citizen.  And most importantly, if I’m going to complain for the next couple of years about terrible political decisions, I best make sure I voted against those driving them.

Now, go.  Arrange your Tuesday so you can vote.  It’s the least you can do.