Hey, Geeks: Rock the Vote, Make a Difference!

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Image: Licensed under Creative Commons Zero
Image: Licensed under Creative Commons Zero

Fellow geeks, we need to talk.

You might have noticed that in the US, we have this election thing going on. “Ha, ha,” I can hear you say, “Who could miss that?” Well, apparently, a lot of people.

I’m not just talking about the people who don’t vote in the national election for president. Sure, voting rates could be improved there as well. But more people turn out to vote for president than for any other elections. And in a representative democracy, that’s a problem.

Say what you will about Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. One of the most poignant scenes (yeah, I know, it’s not hard) in the first SW trilogy is when Palpatine announces he’s taking over, that the Republic will become an Empire, and Senator Amidala says, “So this is how liberty dies…with thunderous applause.”

But who voted Palpatine in as Chancellor in the first place? The Senate. And who elected/appointed the senators? The people of the galaxy. Those senators might have been ignorant fools, but they were put into power by people like you and me. And as Ben Kenobi says, “Who’s the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?”

I hear so many people in my geeky circles online and in person say that they want to vote for change, that they are so dissatisfied with the way things are, that they can’t stand having to vote for the lesser of two evils. Yet I look at who is in office in my local and state precincts, and who is on the ballot here, and it’s all the same people we’ve had for the past thirty years.

Plus, the people who are running on the ballot for locals are ALL unopposed. Guys, you do realize that in order to change anything, you have to make change on all levels, right? One person in our government built on a system of checks and balances isn’t going to do jack without the support from the rest of the government. Yet the only position people seem to care about is that of president.

“Neither of these candidates should be running.” I find this statement to be frustrating, because who gave these candidates the power to run to begin with? People can spout conspiracy theories all they want, but the reality is, there are more regular ordinary Joes than there are of any conspiracy ring leaders.

The local elections happen via popular vote, not electoral college. You want to ensure your presidential candidate gets elected? Pay attention to the local elections and be sure you vote for people who represent your interests. Vote wisely for people who you trust to cast a vote on your behalf, who you trust to be your voice in the government. If there isn’t a person on the ballot who represents you, then it’s time for you to go into your community, go to meetings, become a part of things, and find that person. Nominate people for office, talk to them. If all else fails, run yourself! That’s one of the most awesome parts about this country—any citizen can run for office on the local level. A janitor, a school teacher, a carpenter, even a gamer or comic book nerd.

I know it’s hard to take time from our already busy schedules to make sure our country runs the way we want it to. It’s time consuming. I’ve heard about how long the document is in California that explains all the ballot initiatives and candidates. Finding a babysitter so you can go to city council meetings or school board meetings can be inconvenient to say the least (as the mom of an autistic child, I can definitely feel your pain there).

But it’s also inconvenient to live in a country that doesn’t fit your belief system, where you aren’t getting the things you need or where you aren’t being represented. The things you vote for now, the local issues and people you check off on your ballot, will affect things in the future. That guy you love on city council? You could be looking at a future President of the United States, someone who will do right by you and who you can trust to represent the things vital to you and your family and your interests.

polling-place
Photo: Public Archives, free of copyright

One person can’t change the country. But the majority of an electorate can. This country is split and polarized in part because so many people just blindly check off boxes by party instead of really paying attention to the issues at hand. They listen to what other people say and vote in a way that other people tell them they should, instead of researching and following their conscience.

And just voting in the national elections doesn’t help anyone’s situation. You need to vote for the people who will eventually make it to those top positions. Otherwise you end up…well, in a situation where we are today, where so many people feel they aren’t represented.

There are so many things that you have power over in your community, that have a direct impact on your geeky life. You want a big comic convention in town? Vote for better zoning, where more hotels and parking can be built, or where a convention center could be built. You want more freedom in programming on TV? Vote. You want to make sure authors’ and artists’ works are protected? Vote. You want to stop accidentally buying Asian bootleg versions of your favorite movies, T-shirts, and more on Amazon and eBay? Vote.

You want more quality television, movies, books, and comics? These kids aren’t going to learns the arts on their own—vote to keep the arts in schools. Vote for better funding for public libraries where you can have access to all the geeky materials your heart desires, for free. Vote to make laws kinder to small businesses so your favorite local comics or games shop can stay open. I hear a lot of people complaining about Amazon becoming this monster, but I don’t see a lot of people doing much about it. You guys know that all these things are issues that your representatives have a say in, right? You need to know what you are voting for. The issue that protects one aspect of life might also restrict the content on some television shows. Protecting one right might infringe on or limit another right that might be important to you.

Learning about these issues and candidates takes time, and you might feel that your time is better spent doing things that matter to your geeky life, like keeping up with the shows and comics you’ve fallen behind on, or making that costume for the convention that is coming up next weekend. But unless you take some initiative to protect them, the very things you love might be at risk.

There are indeed communities that have restrictions on costumes and masks, and have bans on certain books and comics. You can change these things, and you can vote initiatives that restrict these things down should they come up on your ballot. Heck, you could start your own initiative to protect the things you love in you community.

But you won’t be able to do any of these things unless you vote and take responsibility for the things most important to your nerdy life!

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