Allison Berkowitz is an assistant professor of social work at the University of North Alabama
If our hearts stop beating, we die. Civic health is the heartbeat of a functional society, and our nation’s civic heart is on life support.
Almost half of the United States’ voting-age population did not vote in the 2018 primary election. In Alabama that jumped up to 75% of eligible voters who did not vote. And almost one in five Americans cannot name any of the branches of government.
I do not necessarily fault any individual for this lack of civic knowledge and behavior. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, “Knowledge about our government is not handed down through the gene pool. Every generation has to learn it, and we have some work to do.”
It is our responsibility to ensure the great experiment of the American Republic has a long, fruitful life by educating ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.
August is Civic Health Month. What can you do to ensure our nation’s civic heart beats on? Can you commit to doing something small like making sure you’re registered to vote? You can do this quickly and easily at (Vote.org).
Maybe you’d like to do something more substantial? If so, can you help your friends and family register to vote? They can also do this at (Vote.org).
Or if you’re really motivated, have you thought about being a poll worker? Many of our tried and true poll workers are in high risk categories due to age or health conditions, so a high proportion of them will be staying home this year as a result of covid-19. [Related: Pandemic increases need for Alabama poll workers for November election]
As an example, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, they had less than a third of the poll workers needed for their primary election this year, so their expected 180 voting locations were cut down to only five. If you’re a young and able-bodied Alabamian, consider being a poll worker this year so we can ensure as many voting locations as possible stay open. You can read more about that at the Alabama secretary of state’s poll worker page.
I know that politics can seem disheartening, but the truth is, public policies affect just about every aspect of our lives. How much funding should schools receive? What constitutes corruption? Should there be incentives to donate to food pantries? All of these things and countless others are decided in the halls of power every day.
If we – or the people we think are best to represent us – aren’t at the table, neither are our interests. I am not telling you what to think or who to vote for, but I do encourage you to participate in the political and legislative processes to the best of your ability, starting with voting.
I’ll leave you with this: after the constitution was created Benjamin Franklin was asked “…what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” Franklin said, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
If we want to keep our individual and collective liberties, we have to work for it.