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Importance of Voting By Laura Butler, Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs at the University of Central Oklahoma 

Unsubscribe – this is the response many are having toward civic engagement. Politics can feel daunting and divisive from social media posts, commercial advertisements, news stories and belligerent [insert family member name here]. Perhaps, this is why people are choosing to opt out and not engage. The reality is whether you opt out, decisions continue to be made.

As current and emerging community leaders, it is crucial to feel empowered to register, be informed and make your voice count by voting. Social media posts and dinner debates do not elect our leaders, votes do. Votes matter. Your vote matters. Your vote shapes our local schools, influences economic development and decisions being made in our community, metro, state and nation for years to come. Lawmakers are elected by, and cast votes on behalf of, their constituents. I respect my partner, friends, parents and colleagues, but inevitably some of our policy preferences do not always align, making it critical for each of us to cast our votes. For your values, beliefs and voice to be heard, you must vote.

The annual report released by the Oklahoma State Election Board shows voter registration increased from 2,090,107 total registered voters in Oklahoma Country in Jan. 15, 2020, to 2,218,374 as reported in Jan. 15, 2022. This is great news, but younger voters are not voting at the same rate as other generations. Only 61% of 25 to 34 year olds were reported registered to vote and only about 54% of those reported voting. The most likely to vote? Those aged 65-74, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2020. The millennial generation, born between 1981 and 1996, comprised the largest total U.S. population in 2020. Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) make up 25% of the U.S. population, making them a larger cohort than baby boomers or millennials. What does this mean? The younger generation of voters has a lot of power IF they exercise their right to vote.

So, how do we begin? Start by preparing for election day in advance. Professionals have rights allowing them time to vote with options for in-person or absentee voting. Ask your employer in advance and learn more about time off for voting. Visit the Oklahoma Election Board website to register/check your voter status, polling location, see what to bring, an in-depth FAQ page and view your sample ballot.

What else can we do? Stay engaged. We all have areas we are passionate and can align our talents with community organizations and needs. Be engaged outside of elections and get involved with community events. The Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce is one of many resources in our community to offer opportunities, reach out to Chamber ambassadors, staff and fellow members to learn more.

See you at the polls! 

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