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10 Reasons to Register and Vote

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If you want to register to vote, Vote Smart provides an easy way to find out the rules and procedures in your state. Just click HERE, and then select your state. Vote Smart will explain all you need to know and how you can register.

Here are 10 reasons why you should register and vote:

First, the only reason that marijuana is legal, and about to become legal, in some states is because people registered and voted for ballot initiatives. Registering to vote means that you can vote for legalization initiatives if they make the ballot in your state.

Second, being a registered voter means you can sign petitions to place legalization initiatives on the ballot in your state—should you have this opportunity. Not every state allows for ballot initiatives, but if yours does, you have to be a registered voter for your signature to help place it on the ballot for voter approval.

Third, the most important reason to become a registered voter is to participate in the electoral process. In other words, the single most valuable benefit of being a registered voter is being able to exercise the right to vote. Your candidate may win, or they may lose—it doesn’t matter. The candidate you support is more likely to win if you vote for them, and more likely to lose if you don’t.

Fourth, voting, though, is more than a determination of who wins and who loses an election. Voting makes you part of the ruling class. There is a lot of discussion these days, valuable discussion, about the role of money and special interests in politics. But money and special interests only affect elections to the extent that they influence voters.

Jeb Bush had lots of money, but he still lost the Republican primary to Donald Trump. How did that happen? That’s an interesting question, but ultimately Trump won the primary process because he got more votes than any other candidate. It can be argued that Trump supporters are a minority in the Republican Party, but they are the ones who showed up on election day and voted for their candidate. Voters rule. If you vote, you become part of the ruling class. You have to play to win, and when it comes to elections, this means registering to vote and showing up at the polls on election day.

Fifth, becoming a registered voter makes your opinion more important in polls and surveys. The only opinion pollsters value more than a registered voter’s is a likely voter’s opinion. Whether the issue is marijuana legalization or some other political issue that interests you, being a registered voter makes it more likely you will be contacted to participate in opinion polls and surveys. Often, for example, these surveys only contact people who are listed in public records as a registered voter.

Sixth, it’s not only opinion polling that matters here but also direct contact from the campaign staff of candidates running for office and/or political parties. These groups also get lists of registered voters and devote considerable attention to contacting them, especially as it gets closer to an election. This is when you get to tell a candidate’s campaign that marijuana legalization matters to you and that your vote depends on where they stand on marijuana reform issues.

Seventh, in many areas, indeed in most jurisdictions, registered voters are used to provide juries in criminal trials. Jury service is an important opportunity to participate in local government, and a benefit of being a member of the ruling class is that you may get the chance to decide the guilt or innocence of someone accused of a crime (and perhaps the opportunity to prevent a miscarriage of justice).

Eighth, being a registered voter makes it easier for you to help get other people to register to vote. It’s a lot more effective to get your friends to register and vote if you have done so yourself. It’s not hard to do, actually, and once you’ve done it yourself, you can explain to your friends exactly what to do. Being a member of the ruling class also makes you eligible, in many states, to participate in public voter registration drives to recruit others to register.

Ninth, being a registered voter is a first step to getting involved in local politics. You can go to meetings of the political party of your choice. This gives you a chance to talk to prospective candidates, share your views on important issues with local activists and participate in local electoral activities (including registration drives, candidate forums, get out the vote activities and other important projects). You don’t have to be a registered voter to go to political events, but it gives you a lot more credibility if you are.

Tenth, voting is a rare high you can’t really appreciate until you have tried it. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, and it’s something you can, and should, be proud of for the rest of your life.

Some existing members of the ruling class don’t want more people to vote. This is perhaps one of the most important reasons to take the effort to find out how to register as well as when and where you can vote on election day. As stated above, if you want to register to vote, Vote Smart provides an easy way to find out the rules and procedures in your state. Just click HERE, and then select your state.  Vote Smart will explain all you need to know and how you can register.

Registering and voting are the single most important things you can do to further the cause of marijuana’s legalization in the United States. The second most important thing you can do is to get your friends to register and vote. Please register to vote, and send this column to everyone you know and encourage them to register to vote as well.

It’s the smart thing to do.

Jon Gettman is the Cannabis Policy Director for High Times. Jon has a Ph.D. in public policy, teaching undergraduate criminal justice and graduate level management courses. A long-time contributor to High Times, his research and analytical work has been used by NORML, Marijuana Policy Project, American’s for Safe Access, the Drug Policy Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations. Jon’s research contributions to the topic of marijuana law reform have included findings on the economic value of domestic marijuana cultivation, attempts to have marijuana rescheduled under federal law and racial disparities in marijuana possession arrest rates. Serving as NORML’s National Director in the late 1980s, he was instrumental in creating NORML’s activist program.

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