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2010-10-14 digital edition

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2010-10-14 / General Stories

Voting Reaffirms American Freedom

By U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Free and fair elections are an integral part of the fabric of our republic. Americans have fought and died to protect this right throughout our nation’s history from Bunker Hill to Baghdad. On November 2, Americans will go to the polls to exercise their right to vote in this year’s mid-term elections. When voters cast their ballots in November, the outcome will determine whether America stays on the same road or charts a different course on key issues such as spending, taxes, and health care.

The significance of the upcoming elections is clear. In the two years following the 2008 elections, our nation has witnessed sweeping increases in the size and scope of government. At the national level, the examples include the health care reform bill, the automaker bailout, and the implementation of President Obama’s trillion dollar stimulus plan. This year’s mid-term will determine if the president’s agenda is validated or repudiated.

Historically, voter turnout in non-presidential election years has been relatively low. In 2006, the last mid-term cycle, only 37 percent of eligible Americans participated. In Texas, the number was just over 26 percent. In the 2008 presidential election, nearly 57 percent of the U.S. voting-age population went to the polls, and nearly 46 percent of those eligible to vote in Texas cast their ballots. The drop-off in the number of voters during mid-term years is significant and concerning.

This year, the entire U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of the U.S. Senate are up for reelection, along with dozens of governorships and state and local offices. The results of these elections will have a major impact on how the critical issues facing local communities, our state, and our nation will be decided.

And each vote counts.

Many elections are decided by the slimmest of margins. Voting has become more accessible than ever before, so there are few excuses for not participating. Citizens can vote early in person, by absentee ballot, or at their precinct on Election Day.

This right should not be taken for granted. So much has been sacrificed by so many throughout our history. Every election confirms our freedom. Every vote reinforces our founding principles. Whether a senior citizen or a college freshman, a stay-at-home mom or a deployed soldier, each American who casts a vote honors our nation’s past and strengthens our future as a thriving democracy.

As President Reagan so elegantly said, we are “a shining city on a hill.” Millions throughout the world look to America and are inspired by our open elections. Oppressed nations hope that they, too, will be free to go to a ballot box without fear and to cast a vote believing that it will be accurately counted. They hope their countries will be governed by elected officials who are fairly and rightfully chosen by voters and held accountable to the people. Democratic ideals are taking hold in some unlikely places around the world; some inspiring examples include the elections in Iraq and the courageous protests in Iran. By exercising our right to vote in America, we help fan the flames of democracy across the globe-and reinforce our constitutionally-granted freedom.

I urge my fellow Texans to vote in this November’s election. Silence and apathy do not advance the cause of freedom. Let your voice be heard.

Kay Bailey Hutchison is the senior U.S. Senator from Texas.

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