Giving Thought: Whatever your opinions and politics, make sure to vote

Tamara Tormohlen
Giving Thought
Aspen Community Foundation, Lauder event, Aug. 13, 2018.
Steve Mundinger

Ballots have been mailed, so get out there and vote.

Driven by a controversial battle for the White House and control of the U.S. Congress, Americans are casting their election ballots in huge numbers around the country. It’s getting hard to find anyone without an opinion on the Nov. 3 election, so make sure your voice is heard too.

If you haven’t registered to vote yet, then go immediately to, where a few easy steps, including providing your social security number or the number on your Colorado ID, should do the trick. You also can register in person at your local voting place up until Election Day.

I know that voting can be a hassle, and that the ballot measures can be difficult if not impossible to understand, but the simple fact is that democracy doesn’t work unless we all practice it. In our past four presidential elections, only about 55% to 57% of voting-eligible Americans cast ballots. In other words, 43% to 45% of American adults were content to let other people choose their president and all of their other elected representatives, from the federal government down to their home counties.

Dear readers, I needn’t tell you (but I will) that the right to vote is one of most cherished rights and responsibilities that we share as citizens. We vote not only for our government representatives, but to choose how much we pay in taxes and where our tax dollars go. Our votes decide how we fund our schools, fire departments and water and sewer districts. This November, among other things, Coloradans will decide whether to reintroduce gray wolves on the Western Slope.

Whatever you feel about the candidates and issues on the ballot, we should all feel lucky to live in a country where we enjoy this privilege. People in other countries put their lives on the line in order to vote.

Recognizing the importance of voting and civic engagement in general, philanthropic organizations around the country are stepping up to encourage voter turnout and to protect our democracy. These efforts range from get out the vote campaigns to funding efforts that protect the right to vote for all eligible citizens.

Locally, Voces Unidas de las Montanas (United Voices of the Mountains) is working hard this fall to get out the Latino vote. Using phones and going door-to-door, the Latino advocacy group is trying to persuade those who need some encouragement to make the effort and join the public conversation.

“Everyone has something they’d like to change or affect, but you can’t change that inequity or injustice you care about if you’re not part of this,” said Alex Sanchez, executive director of Voces Unidas. “Casting your vote is how you can make change.”

He’s right. And his words hold true regardless of your personal opinions and preferences. The more people who vote, the more accurately the results will reflect public opinion. And that is how democracy is supposed to work.

We’ll never know what the results of the 2016 election would have been if every eligible voter cast a ballot. But perhaps this year a record-setting participation rate will at least boost confidence in the 2020 results.

High voter turnout, regardless of political affiliation, is an important indicator for a healthy democracy, according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review. So, while we can be discouraged by the news of reduced polling stations, allegations of voter fraud and attacks on voting by mail, we should not lose sight of the fact that our vote is our voice. That our future as a nation, a state, a county, a city is determined by people like you and me casting our ballots.

Colorado is one of five states that holds elections almost exclusively by mail. It is safe and secure and easy. Simply fill out your ballot and either drop it in the mail (with adequate postage) or in any of the official ballot drop box locations through the valley. For drop box locations, visit Enter your address and it will locate the nearest drop box location to you.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.