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Make your voice heard

It’s time to vote again, and this year, I’m voting for Connie. She’s running for the Virginia House of Delegates, hoping to unseat an incumbent. A community leader and nurse practitioner, Connie is passionate about increasing access to health care, improving childhood education, and creating jobs. Nurses lead her circle of support—raising money, posting signs in neighborhoods, and sharing her message. With the current and previous governors squarely in her camp, she is in a strong position to win.My mail frequently includes invitations to fund-raising events and brochures that show candidates posing with their constituents. I also receive requests from candidates, political parties, and other organizations raising funds for candidates whose elections are more than a year away. Sometimes, keeping it all straight can be difficult. General elections, primaries, local and state ballot initiatives, polling places, absentee ballot rules… you get the picture. Recently, my daughter asked me which elections were being held this year and when we would know who would be on the ballot for the presidential election. I had to go to the Internet to get the whole story, including my state’s presidential primary election date.

Online information today can provide just about everything you want to know about elections. You can get the details on registering to vote, the locations of polling places, and the procedure for using an absentee ballot. You can also learn about the candidates’ views, see the candidates in action, send correspondence to their campaigns, and make donations. You can even learn about campaign volunteer opportunities.
Some websites provide detailed critiques of the candidates’ campaigns and finances as well as background information on the issues. One of the more cleverly named sites, Vote411.com, is run by the League of Women Voters’ Education Fund. It offers nonpartisan information on every aspect of the general and state election processes. The League’s grassroots network has been educating voters about every level of government since 1920. About 15 years ago, the League created Smart Voter, which gives voters information about candidates in their local races.
Typically, each state’s Office of the Secretary of State supplies information about election logistics (voter registration, dates, times, and polling places) and specific proposals on the ballot. States also publish their voter’s bill of rights with explicit declarations about the right to vote, the right to get assistance, and the right to receive a ballot in a language other than English.
For decades, the American Nurses Association (ANA) and its constituent members have provided information to nurses and the public on important state and national legislative agendas. The ANA’s Political Action Committee and similar state groups support candidates who hold views consistent with the ANA’s regulatory and legislative agenda to improve the U.S. healthcare system. And individual nurses can make a difference by contacting members of Congress on key issues through the grassroots network N-STAT (Nurses Strategic Action Team).
Many of us focus on who the final Presidential candidates will be in November 2008, and rightfully so because healthcare reform will continue to be an important issue in the Presidential race. But we also need to help decide who gets elected locally. State elected officials determine critical issues with far reaching effects on our lives and profession. Safe patient handling, staffing, overtime, nursing education, the use of the
title Nurse, the scope of practice, whistleblower protection, and nonviolent environments are all issues affected by state legislation in recent years.
Nurses’ voices should be loud and strong on these issues. If we vote, we can make a difference. We are trusted and can educate others about important issues. When you set priorities for your busy life, please include time to exercise your right to vote. Start getting ready for the exciting election schedule of 2008 and help shape the direction of our country at the local, state, and national levels. Do your part. I’ll do mine. I’m voting for Connie.

Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, FAAN

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