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Essay: Voting

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No matter who you vote for in tomorrow’s elections, there’s a good chance you might be disappointed by the results of at least one race.  That’s OK, says Lake Effect essayist Avi Lank – it comes with the territory:

In November 2006, almost 60% of Wisconsinites voted to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage. As a supporter of civil rights, I was flabbergasted, at the result, yes, but even more so at its size. It seemed inconceivable to me that in the United States in the 21st Century, so many people could believe that it was proper public policy to legally discriminate against a group of their fellow citizens. But so said the voters. I shook my head and to maintain my sanity, moved on. Thankfully, a decade later public opinion, and the law, has changed. Gays can now marry all over the U.S.

In 2008, two years after Wisconsin voted on gay marriage, Barak Obama easily carried the state in his first presidential election, beating John McCain 56% to 42%. Many people on the losing side of that vote felt the way I had about the gay marriage referendum result – complete disbelief that the electorate could make such a stupid choice. And many decided that in reality, the electorate had not, that only some kind of cheating had allowed the Wisconsin vote to come out in favor of Obama. But in truth there had been no more cheating on the gay marriage vote then there had been in the 2008 presidential election.

Now, skip forward to tomorrow, when Americans will again elect a president, with one candidate already saying that the only way the other can win is through cheating and rigging the vote. Many of supporters of that candidate feel likewise. But it ain’t so. A person can have firmly held beliefs in the correctness of a position and still lose in the court of public opinion. There are two proper ways to counter that. One is difficult – engaging in vigorous public discussion to convince your fellow citizens to come over to your side. The other is much simpler -- voting. So tomorrow do that simple thing, cast a ballot.

And if you lose, remember how I felt after that 2006 referendum -- accept that there are folks who feel differently and move on. Believe me it will do wonders for your mental health.

Essayist Avi Lank is a former reporter for the Milwaukee Sentinel and later the Journal Sentinel. He’s also coauthor of the recent book, The Man Who Painted the Universe.

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