Are you ready for midterms?

by David Callis, executive vice-president and general manager

If you use the word “midterm” in a conversation with high school or college students, they’ll likely frown about exams they aren’t completely prepared to take. If you mention “midterm” to political junkies, the meaning is quite a bit different. You’d better be prepared to spend some time listening to their concerns and about the importance of the upcoming midterm elections.

Even if you don’t pay attention to politics (and you really should), by now you’ve noticed that elections are coming up in the next few months. Every vacant lot and busy corner is filled with campaign signs for every elected office — from county commission to the U.S. Senate.

You shouldn’t try to read all of those signs while you’re driving. Distracted driving isn’t conducive to good health and long life. You shouldn’t ignore voting in the midterms, either. These elections could have long-term effects on you and your town, county, state and nation. And, it really doesn’t matter your political viewpoint; it’s just not good practice to allow a minority of the population to select our leaders. That’s the problem, so the analysts say, with the midterms.

What exactly is a midterm election? Elections are held for the U.S. Senate every six years, providing for gradual change in the makeup of that body. Elections are held for president every four years and for the entire House of Representatives every two years. House elections held without a corresponding presidential election are commonly called the midterms.

Americans don’t exactly take home the gold when it comes to election participation, and midterms lag behind the averages. We typically turn out in numbers averaging around 55 percent. That percentage of eligible voters has held constant for the past four decades. Even in the high turnout year of 2008, about 62 percent of eligible voters elected our president and the Congress for the next two years.

You’ve heard pundits argue, “What’s the bigger problem: ignorance or apathy?” The answer, with tongue firmly in cheek, is, “I don’t know, and I don’t care.” From the statistics on voting, it looks as though four of every 10 people let a lack of knowledge or enthusiasm keep them from exercising their constitutional right.

This year, we have the opportunity to elect 33 percent of the Senate and 100 percent of the 435 members of the House of Representatives. That’s a significant portion of Congress, enough to make a difference on a variety of legislative issues. Seems like a pretty worthy reason to shake off the lethargy and exercise your right to vote.

To begin the process, go to www.tn.gov/sos/election. You can find details on national and state elections as well as your voting status and information on county elections.

Please take advantage of your right to vote. Electing your leaders is as much an obligation as it is an opportunity. All it takes is a little knowledge — we’ve pointed you in the right direction — and a little effort to actually cast your vote.

While you’re in the voting mood, there is a local opportunity where your vote actually counts a little more than in national elections. You’re a member-owner of an electric cooperative. You can elect directors and vote on bylaws and other issues. Your electric co-op holds an annual meeting every year, usually promoted in The Tennessee Magazine, where the leadership reports to you about your co-op’s financial condition.

Voting is important, whether it’s for a co-op director or a U.S. senator. Lyndon Baines Johnson, our 36th president who also helped found an electric co-op, recognized the need to stay involved. He said, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”

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