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Opinion: An election for the history books

Truth Be Told

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Here I am, a day after the 2018 midterm elections. On the one hand, election season is over, and on the other hand, the 2020 races have already begun.

No rest for the weary, I guess. Sure, I’m referring to the candidates. But I’m also referring to those of us who just want to cry in peace watching NBC’s “This is Us” sans political ads.

While there’s much to dread in the political climate of 2018, there’s much to celebrate. I’m not a fan of the harsh rhetoric and deceptive propaganda. Who is? But I love Election Day. It’s an electric feeling to slide your ballot into the counting machine. It’s not lost on me how incredible it is that I can freely walk into an election booth and cast my vote. No violence. No fear.

There’s something so beautiful about democracy. I pray I never forget that.

Here are two ways this election was one to remember.

Young, booming voices
My sister, who’s a decade younger than me, was old enough to vote this election. I texted her several times asking if she had cast her ballot. She made it within an hour of the polls closing and my heart swelled.

Last midterms, only 23 percent of registered voters ages 18 to 34 actually voted across the country. That’s confusing to me. If we’re the future, don’t we want a say in it?

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone in my concern. Springfield entered into a friendly competition among other cities of the same name in Illinois, Massachusetts and Oregon. The Springfield Votes campaign spearheaded by the League of Women Voters of Southwest Missouri had a goal of increasing young voter turnout.

Which city had the biggest increase is yet to be determined. (By the way, thank you to the tireless poll workers and county clerks employees who report voting numbers.)

My unofficial survey says the young people of Queen City showed up. That’s solely based on the sheer number of “I Voted” sticker selfies that dominated my social media newsfeeds on Election Day.

But here are some real numbers – 71.09 percent of registered, active voters in Greene County showed up to the polls for this year’s midterms, according to the county clerk’s office. That’s an 82 percent increase in voters since the November 2014 midterms.

The Network for Springfield’s Young Professionals also played a big role in rocking the vote.

Network chair Kristin Carter said the group pushed a social media campaign to encourage participation.

“We motivate young professionals to educate themselves on important ballot issues, then to show up in force on Election Day,” Carter shared via email the morning after the election. “Our young professionals care deeply about making the Springfield area the most vibrant community in our region and state, and showing up to the polls is a very important step in making that happen.”

I’m not sure if you officially brought home the trophy for having the most voter turnout increase, but you, Springfield, Missouri, won in my book.

Historic wins
The next Congress will include a record number of women, with at least 118 women represented in the U.S. House and Senate. While women still make up only 22 percent of Congress’ 535 seats, this is the right direction.

Rosie co-founder Paige Oxendine agrees. She shared her excitement via email post election: “We hope to see this trend continue across local, state and national races and encourage all women to think about the ways in which they can best serve their communities.”

Rosie is a Springfield-based advocacy and mentorship group for women. Men can join, too, as Brosies.

So why does gender matter? Because diversity of thought, race, ethnicity and gender and all the things that make us different need a voice. And it’s no small thing that the gender representing the majority of votes cast in presidential elections since 1964, when the Census began collecting voter registration data, deserves a prominent seat at the table.

This election was a first in other arenas as well. The first Muslim women were elected to Congress to represent Minnesota and Michigan, and the first openly gay governor won in Colorado.

This is worth celebrating. But I look forward to a day when these “historic wins” are simply “wins.”

Not everyone and everything I voted for this election was victorious. But, as more of us get involved and are represented, we’ll get closer to that “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” democracy we need.

Springfield Business Journal Features Editor Christine Temple can be reached at ctemple@sbj.net.

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