I’ve always been a voter. As soon as I turned 18, I registered to vote, and it happened to be a general election year. There was never another option in my mind. I grew up in a house where we regularly discussed politics — my grandmother served on the Atascadero City Council from 1979-1991, and both her father and grandfather were county commissioners in Central Montana. It’s no surprise, of course, that my brother went on to get his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science, resulting in even more and longer political discussions.
In my house growing up — and what I strive for in my own home now — conversations revolved around politics, current and world news, social justice issues and religion. Of course, all the things that polite people say you should avoid. But those kinds of conversations and constructive discussions are what we need more than anything. Who cares what celebrity wore what? Who cares that so-and-so cheated on so-and-so? That’s all gossip. What really matters is what is going on with humanity on a more human level. Do people have enough to eat? Does everyone have a roof over their head? Is everyone free of any kind of slavery — abuse, prostitution, addiction, to name a few? What laws are our lawmakers working on? Are those lawmakers spending our money wisely? What are people doing to help others?
We all have a responsibility to care for our planet and the people on it — both those near and far, as well as those problems well known and those hidden from view. While many people do care about those things, there are too many who do not connect our governmental laws, policies, and spending to those issues. I grew up in a home that not only discussed politics, but also actively participated — and we all still do — in social justice. My father is a United Church of Christ minister, has been since before I was born and he said the reason he felt called to go into the ministry was when he participated in social justice projects with my mom’s UCC church in Hayward. Later, when I was 13, my mother got her Bachelor of Science degree in social work. So caring about others has always been a part of me.
All of those things has cemented how vital casting an educated vote is. I highly encourage everyone who can register to vote, to do it. Then vote. But before you cast your vote, do your homework. It could be as simple as knowing what the issue is or who the candidates for office are. As a working journalist for the last 11 years, I have been to countless candidate forums and they are invaluable being able to see the candidates in the flesh and hear them speak on the issues and how they relate to the other candidates.
Check out our spread on the propositions and measures that will be on the ballot for voters in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. They are brief and to the point, but give you a starting point. Your sample ballot will be mailed out soon and it will include pros and cons on each. I also recommend going to the League of Women Voters’ Smart Voter website, www.smartvoter.org, to read a nonpartisan analysis on the issues.