Vote Early-And Often

By Kaiser, Charles | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), November 7, 2000 | Go to article overview

Vote Early-And Often


Kaiser, Charles, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


All three branches of the federal government are up for grabs in the November 7 election, and gay people have a historic opportunity to influence the outcome. The signs on the lawns of Vermont bigots inflamed by the civil unions law read TAKE BACK VERMONT, but we have a chance to take back America.

Three months ago the Republicans were the odds-on favorites to win the White House and retain control of the U.S. Senate, outcomes that could set the gay movement back by a decade. Now the presidential race is a dead heat, the Democrats are favored to win the House, and they even have an outside chance of regaining control of the Senate. That means that if enough of us bother to vote, we can keep the White House in the hands of a gay-friendly president for 12 years in a row and dispatch House majority leader Dick Armey and Senate majority leader Trent Lott to the dustbin of history.

Voter nonparticipation is the great ongoing scandal of our democracy--and gay people can't afford to be a part of it. Two years ago just 36% of the eligible voters bothered to go to the polls to elect the new Congress. The number in the last presidential election wasn't much better--it was 49% of the eligible voters, the lowest percentage since 1924. The numbers for young people are even worse. In 1998 just 12% of the 18- to 24-year-olds bothered to vote. Overall, we have the worst voter participation record of any developed democracy.

These numbers are bad news for the country, but they offer gay people a rainbow-colored window of opportunity. Since only half of the eligible voters participate in a presidential election, if every gay person voted, we could double our influence over the political process overnight.

It was just eight years ago that gay votes and gay dollars first played a possibly decisive role in the outcome of a presidential election. In 1996, 5% of the voters self-identified as lesbian or gay in exit polls, and this year we could easily make the difference between a President Bush and a President Gore.

Gay people could also take back the Senate for the Democrats by electing openly gay candidate Ed Flanagan in Vermont, by voting for Chuck Robb (who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act) in Virginia, and by voting for Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, Ron Klink in Pennsylvania, Bill Nelson in Florida, Mel Carnahan in Missouri, and Hillary Clinton in New York.

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