Do midterm elections matter? You bet.

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

As this issue hits mailboxes, we’re only a couple of weeks away from the November election. I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful that the barrage of nasty, negative political advertisements will soon be over. The name-calling and mud-slinging are getting old. It’s certainly enough to disillusion voters about the political process.

That being said, I will be among those going to the polls this year. This will be my first opportunity to vote as a Missouri resident. I’ve been a registered voter in Tennessee from the time I turned 18 and participated in nearly every election since.

That’s how I was raised. Growing up, my family treated elections like church services. You didn’t miss them. In fact, our small, rural community’s polling place was the Valley Home Methodist Church about a mile from our farm. I remember tagging along with my parents to cast their votes in the basement fellowship hall. They didn’t miss a chance to vote, if they could help it. Daddy would even show up dirty and dusty from the field to exercise the right that his Daddy fought for overseas as an Army sergeant in World War II.

For me, however, it’s more than civic obligation. I believe voting is one of the most meaningful things we can do as Americans. Even when “my” candidate lost the race, I’ve never felt like my vote was wasted. Taking time to vote is what counts, even when you’re tired from work or it’s raining cats and dogs or you think it won’t matter if one more person doesn’t turn out.

Granted, 2018 is the midterm election. There isn’t a flashy presidential campaign going on, so you may be even more tempted to stay home this time around. Don’t. Throughout TF country, there are important decisions to be made.

For starters, Missouri has a close U.S. Senate race that could impact the balance of power between Republicans and Democrats. (Refer to my earlier complaint about nasty political advertising). Governors will be elected in Arkansas, Kansas and Iowa. Across the nation, all 435 U.S. House of Representative seats will be decided as well as many other important state and local offices.

There are more than just political positions at stake. From weed to wages, Missouri voters will consider a wide range of constitutional amendments and propositions. Three different ballot measures are related to legalizing medical marijuana, while another proposition would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.85 to $12 by 2023.

Rural Missourians will want to pay close attention to Amendment 1, which addresses lobbying, campaign finance and redistricting reforms. The amendment’s nickname, “Clean Missouri,” projects an ethical intent to reduce lobbyists’ influence and redraw political maps based on “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness.” However, Missouri Farm Bureau has expressed concern that it would dilute the impact of rural voters by extending rural districts into urban areas.

And then there’s the fuels tax question, known as Proposition D, which would increase the gasoline and diesel tax rate by 2.5 cents a year in each of the next four years. Missouri’s fuel tax, one of the lowest in the nation, currently stands at 17 cents per gallon and was last increased in 1996. If passed, Prop D would generate at least $288 million annually—funds that will go to local governments for road construction and maintenance. The idea of more taxation isn’t popular, but these dollars are desperately needed to fix our “farm-to-market” roads and maintain transportation infrastructure so producers can move equipment, machinery and trucks safely and efficiently.

Regardless of how you feel about the political candidates, amendments or propositions on the ballot, get out and vote. If you don’t, you really have no right to complain about our leaders or laws. Voting also sets a good example for younger generations. Just as my parents did in my growing-up years, I’ve also taken a kid to the polls. Seeing me cast my ballot always generates good conversations about civics and current affairs. Plus, kids love the “I Voted” stickers. Just be sure to do your homework before you submit that vote. For a one-stop-shop of election information tailored to your location, visit www.vote411.org, a site maintained by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters.

Slightly more than a third of elligible voters turned out across the country in the last midterm elections, the lowest share since 1942, according to the United States Elections Project that tracks voting data back to 1789. Let's help change that trend in 2018. 

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