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How to Harness the Power of Democracy

Just a few days before election day, here is your four step-guide for harnessing democracy. (It can be fun!)

1. Mark you calendars for Tuesday, November 6

Polls are open from 6a to 9p, so set your alarms and turn on all your phone notifications. Come up with your voting plan… Before work? After work? Before coffee? (No.) After Coffee? (Yes.) Figure out if you’re going to rent a van or a bus to get all your friends to the polls as well.

And make sure to take your kids (or nieces and nephews or grandkids) along so they can see how this all works, or how it’s supposed to work, anyway. Voting makes you an American hero for the day; it would be such a shame if no one directly witnessed you saving the country. (Note: wearing a cape could really hit this point home.)

If you are in need of some extra motivation to get to the polls, I offer some guilt in poetic form:

            New York State, 

            Has a pathetic voter turnout rate. 

            Let’s feel the shame, 

            Then bring up our game.

2. Double check your Polling place

Polling places do change and this does affect turnout. When they move to a new location, we get a teeny little postcard in the mail about this, but it can so easily get lost in our piles of bills, political mailers, and Holiday catalogs. You can look up your polling place at the Rockland County Board of Elections website.

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Once you enter your address, this site will also tell you which congressional, senatorial, assembly, and legislative district you are in. You can even look at a sample ballot.

If, in this process, you discover that you are mysteriously not showing up and you are concerned that you are for some reason no longer registered, call the Board of Elections immediately at 845-638-5172.

3. Learn about the candidates

You can visit their websites, their Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts. If you missed any debates candidates have participated in, you can often find recordings of those online, too. You can also usually watch their promotional videos on YouTube.

Just a heads up for when you embark on your research: You will very likely come upon some unsavory mud-slinging, which could negatively impact your faith in humankind. Even candidates who have no interest in running a negative campaign might get pulled into that unfortunate, defensive tactic if their opponent starts slinging first. Along these lines, let’s remember that no candidate is perfect, just as no spouse, no child, no employee, or even mother (!) is perfect. Sometimes, at election time, we have to pull waayyyyy back and look at the big picture in order to base our decisions on the greater good.

4. Volunteer to Get out the Vote 

This is something we can be doing all year long, as far as helping to get people registered. But if you missed that particular boat, you can still jump on some others. It’s not too late to make some phone calls for your favorite candidate. Most campaigns provide phone numbers, talking points, and even scripts to make this easy.

You can also put on your walking shoes and your friendliest smile to knock on doors. Contact the campaigns directly to get set up with walking lists. If this concept makes you uncomfortable, just know that it’s apparently the most effective way of convincing people to get out and vote for your candidate, so you’re pretty much harnessing the maximum power possible. This is not only the way that you can most directly affect the results (hey, some races come down to just a few votes), it’s the best way to absolve yourself of any guilt on election day. In other words, if you knocked on doors and your candidate doesn’t win, you can at least say to yourself (or to everyone you see for the next several weeks), “Well, I did my part.”

And on the flip side, if you don’t really enjoy getting political phone calls, or having people come to your door, please know (and I speak from personal experience) that the person on the other end of the phone line or the other side of your threshold, is probably going far outside her own comfort zone, skipping dinner with her family, and might even have a skull-splitting headache brought on by election anxiety… so please be nice. (Honestly, though, canvassing can be pretty fun, or at least less painful, if you partner up with a friend.)

Finally, remember that, as nauseating as politics can sometimes get, voting, even on off-years, is a powerful and critical action. Most importantly, it earns you the right to complain, and you wouldn’t want to miss out on that opportunity, would you?

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