One of the most exciting--and essential--duties U.S. citizens bear is the opportunity to vote for people to represent them in local, state and federal offices. As Election Day--Tuesday, November 7--approaches, I urge natural gas executives to teach their employees about the importance of registering to vote and then taking the time to go to the polls.
Industry leaders should first consider the different ways that employees are likely to approach voting. While older workers are more likely to vote, odds are only 50-50 that 18-24 year-olds are even registered to vote. In 1996, a mere one-third of eligible young voters actually went to the polls. What made the difference for those who did vote? Family conversations about issues, options and politics were an important motivating factor, according to American Demographics magazine. Pocketbook issues such as jobs, wages and the economy ranked highest among young voters.
To encourage more young employees to vote, AGA-member executives can direct employees to the Federal Election Commission web site (www.fec.gov/votregis/vr.htm ), where they can download a mail-in voter registration form. (Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming and Wisconsin are the only states that don't accept mail-in registration.)
It's not too elementary to provide basic civic education. Meetings may be held to describe the different functions of state and federal governments, inform workers that all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of the 100 U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs every two years, or discuss local issues.
For all employees, companies may make efforts to provide voter education materials in employee newsletters or lunch rooms, or encourage informal staff debate about issues.
At AGA, we encourage employees to vote by offering flexible work schedules on Election Day because our employees reside in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, which have differing polling hours. During an era in which many people feel disenfranchised from the political system, companies should emphasize that every vote counts. This fact was demonstrated several years ago when a city council member in Ferndale City, Wash., won re-election by simply saying "tails." State law, which made no provision for additional elections in the event of a tie, required the coin toss after recounts showed the two contenders tied with 954 votes each. The flip of a 1921 silver dollar decided the outcome.
Promoting full voting participation can enrich our democratic system.
We're all equal in stature when the curtain to the voting booth closes. Let's commit ourselves to being equal to the task of motivating all 170,000 natural gas utility employees to vote, in support of the common good.
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