If You Aren’t at the Table, You’re on the Menu: Vote!

Oregon is a state that prides itself on being first. First to create the Bottle Bill and access to public beaches. First to implement a statewide gas tax to fund roads. First to create family medical leave and recently the most progressive form of paid family medical leave in the country. We were the first state to pass comprehensive land-use planning, death with dignity, state-wide rent control, the much-debated initiative and referendum process and vote-by-mail.

I could have started this column with the highlights of what we can anticipate in the short legislative session, but change is already on the horizon as political alliances are shifting to new realities of who is or is not running and what is or may likely be on the ballot in May and November of 2020. The list of leadership objectives for the short session are still being baked.

Whether or not you like politics, you cannot escape what Oregon lawmakers pass every year. You will be touched by changes to your everyday life by legislation impacting Oregonians far more than legislation passed at the federal level. That’s a fact. The more informed you are of the issues and the candidates running for office, the better.

Never miss an opportunity to make your voice known at a local town hall, because unless you do, as the saying goes: if you aren’t at the table, you’re on the menu. Let’s face it, we got served up as the main course this last session and we don’t want to be dessert in 2021.

As we close out the end of 2019, I want to leave all of you with an important task for consideration: participate in the May primary. When it comes to our election process, your vote matters. You cannot achieve any meaningful change in our democratic process unless you fully exercise your obligation to be informed of the issues and people running for office. You must vote, even if doing so feels like you are holding your nose. What happens when you don’t vote? Your non-affiliated or “didn’t feel like it” vote means you gave away your voice. Your vote wasn’t a “no,” it was ceded to the many other somebodies who will determine who governs you. Think about that: Not voting means no voice.

To entice you to consider how you can fully participate in the process, I went to Oregon’s Secretary of State website to look up registration statistics. At the end of October, there were 2,813,849 Oregonians registered to vote and of those registered, 34.6% are registered Democrat, 24.9% registered Republican and 33.7% are registered as non-affiliated.

At the time of writing this column, non-affiliated voters are not allowed to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary in Oregon. That means 948,697 people are shut out of voting in May. That could change, but for now, that’s a huge group of people who could change the course we are on – which is slated to be more liberal, more progressive, less business friendly or economic development minded. If you’re happy with that future, Oregon, then stay the course, but if you aren’t happy with it, the only way to change it is to register or change your party affiliation prior to the May 19, 2020 primary and VOTE.

Here’s how you do it: to participate in an election, you must register with one of the major political parties 21 days before the election. You can change your party registration online at sos.oregon.gov no later than 11:59 p.m. 21 days before the election. That means in order to vote in the May primary you have to make a decision on or before April 29, 2020.

While it might seem antithetical to discuss the issue of voting in December, I’m doing this because now is the time when political party platforms and candidates are gearing up for 2020. Now is the time to put this in your minds before the busy holiday season. Now is the time when impeachment hearings distract Congress from finishing their work and signing important federal infrastructure legislation by the end of the year.

Now is the time to remind you that Oregon is all about being first and what wasn’t accomplished this year will be brought forward next year with every intention to pass it.