By Linda Renee Baker, University Professor, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute
Today we in Illinois are again called to our highest responsibility: the responsibility, as citizens, to cast our votes to choose the public officials we deem in our collective wisdom to be most fit to govern the land.
These elections are charged with choosing from amongst the multiple candidates for various federal, state and local offices. This blog has in the past discussed some of the most pressing issues facing our state and nation, issues which each voter’s choice of candidate will significantly shape as they are considered in our various legislative, executive and judicial offices. Issues like the appropriate balance between taxing and spending by various units of government, unfunded pension liabilities, education funding, ethics rules, infrastructure and capital needs of the state and nation, the ongoing challenges facing the healthcare system and others.
One of the most effective ways that we as citizens can make our views known is at the ballot box. In Illinois we have taken multiple steps to ensure that voting is as easy as possible for anyone wishing to cast a ballot. These measures include absentee voting and early voting. If you have not taken advantage of the early voting option, that time is past.
If you happen to miss all of the aforementioned opportunities, you can still go to the polls to make your voice heard. The issues we face are too important and the stakes are far too high to be left only to the small and steadily diminishing portion of citizens who bother to vote. Every citizen’s input is important to the process.
Illinoisans are called upon to choose their next United States Senator, to re-elect or replace incumbent members of the U.S. House of Representatives, to choose a Governor, state representatives and others. Illinois’ recent history continues to shape our political present, with the intertwined stories of President Obama’s historic election and the jockeying to replace him in the U.S. Senate leading to then-Governor Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment and criminal trial providing the backdrop and context for both our senate and gubernatorial choices. The United States Senate race features Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and U.S. Representative Mark Kirk as the primary candidates, along with significant challenges from Green, Independent and Libertarian Party candidates.
Appointed Governor Pat Quinn faces State Senator Bill Brady in the governor’s race, with Governor Quinn including as his running mate Sheila Simon, running against Jason Plummer of Madison County.
State Representative David Miller faces former State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka in the race for State Comptroller. Robin Kelly, former State Representative and current Chief of Staff to State Treasurer Giannoulias, is running to fill the seat to be vacated by her employer against State Senator Dan Rutherford. Incumbent Secretary of State Jesse White is seeking re-election, as are every State Representative and many State Senators.
A defining feature in this campaign season has been voter anger, fear, frustration and disenchantment. Please be aware of the very intense feelings and views that motivate people and if approached, exchange views in a friendly and respectful fashion. Recent news has sadly shown quite clearly the lengths to which frustrated citizens will go when they feel as if their rights and their future are threatened. Our nation has been fortunate to not experience the degree of difficulties at election time that many countries routinely face. Let us all do our best to ensure that it stays that way.
And lastly, remember the sacrifices made by the many to extend the franchise to each and every one of us. I recall the sight of sick and infirm people being brought to the polls on stretchers in South Africa, or risking bombs and threats of violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, all to exercise their right and do that which had been denied to them for so long – the right to vote. Don’t be discouraged by long lines and waiting times at the polls. Be aware that many others will be trying to vote, particularly at the peak times before and after the workday. If lines are long at your local polling place, plan your day accordingly. Opt for off-peak times, such as late morning, early or late lunch breaks or mid-afternoon. Do not let long lines deter you from exercising your right. Don’t let apathy win the day.
The polls remain open until 7:00 p.m. To vote you must be a registered voter. I encourage everyone to bring the necessary identification to avoid any potential problem that may make it difficult to cast your vote. If you encounter any problems with voting, don’t give up. Election judges are present at all polling places to help you exercise your democratic right as a United States Citizen.
This multitude of races and candidates surely offers many choices for us all. The stakes are too high for anyone to passively remain on the sidelines. The most important choice is the choice to vote. Please do so.
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