Exercise your right to vote

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Norm Theirolf
  • 80th Flying Training Wing Superintendent
My wife was born and raised in Thailand before immigrating to the United States.

When I met her, she was a citizen with resident alien status (she had her green card) and had lived in the United States for several years. She had married her first husband, given birth to three children, owned her own house, paid taxes and social security and was eligible for just about any program that all United States citizens were.

After we got married, we got an assignment to Panama, and, to make it easier for my wife to travel, she decided to become a United States Citizen and travel on a United States passport. We went through several months of classes, preparation and meetings until she became a Naturalized United States Citizen in 1992.

So why am I telling you about my wife's background ... and what does it have to do with exercising your right to vote? As I said, traveling on a United Sates passport for more than 16 years has been a lot easier than traveling with another country's (i.e. Thailand) passport, so she did gain that advantage. But the major advantage that my wife gained by getting her United States citizenship is that she was able to vote in our national, state and local elections.

Prior to 1992 my wife had everything that any other person in this country seemed to have (home, job, etc.), but she was never able to take part in our democratic election process until she became a citizen. Not only has she voted in every election since she became a citizen, but for the last three elections, we were overseas and she voted by absentee ballot (as did I). That meant we had to make a request to our state of residency to get an absentee ballot mailed to us, then complete it and send it in early for the elections.

When you look at voter turnout in the United States during the last two elections, 60percent of eligible voters voted in 2000, and 64 percent voted in 2004. That is a very large percentage of eligible voters who didn't exercise their right to vote. Many of them just didn't take the time, or concern, to voice their opinion at the ballot box.

By contrast, in the 2005 elections in Iraq, a country in the middle of a war, over 74 percent of registered voters cast ballots, and many of those who voted had the threat of death over their heads as they went to exercise their democratic freedom.

As you watch the media coverage of the candidates you'll notice that some media (TV, newspapers, internet, etc.) have very liberal or very conservative philosophies. Many of these will endorse/support one candidate over the other, while there are a few media sources who try to stay as neutral as possible and just report the facts on issues and candidates. My recommendation to you is to gain your perspective on the issues and the candidates from multiple sources and then make your personal decision on whom and what you want to vote for.

Our national, state and local elections are on Nov. 4 ... what do you plan to do that day? Get out and exercise your right to vote ... not everyone who lives in this great country has that right, and many that do don't hold their vote in enough regard to actually cast a ballot.