Midterm elections are around the corner Tuesday, Nov. 4 and I am excited to exercise my right to vote. Many eligible voters choose not to participate in the democratic system, believing that their single vote is insignificant. I write to dissipate this myth! The margin of victory between candidates is often small, especially in state elections. The representatives that we elect dictate what legislation will be introduced and voted on. In May 2013, the Eighty-eighth Minnesota Legislature our current state government passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage; this would have been impossible under the Eighty-seventh Minnesota Legislature. Marriage equality became a reality in Minnesota because of constituents who showed up on Election Day and voted for candidates who supported their rights.
Tuesday’s election is no different from 2012; some candidates will work to expand our rights, while others will impose restrictions. Though American politics seem tied overall, progressive legislation is being enacted in this state. In July, Minnesota House Majority Leader Erin Murphy introduced the Contraceptive Health Equity and Employee Rights CHEER Act. This bill was proposed in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a Federal Court ruling which allows employers to restrict contraception coverage for their employees based on religious beliefs. The CHEER Act is an anti-discrimination measure that would require for-profit employers in Minnesota to cover FDA-approved prescription contraception methods for their employees. The bill would make businesses like Hobby Lobby disclose to current employees or prospective hires if they have restrictive coverage policies based on religious beliefs.
The CHEER Act would allow people to make medical decisions based on their own needs rather than their boss’ beliefs, but it does not stand a chance at ratification if the DFL loses control of the Minnesota Legislature.
Our District Representative David Bly supports the CHEER Act. However, our district 20B has also had a victory margin of below 40 votes in past elections. It’s on us to show up and cast our votes for candidates who have our best interests in mind. If you do not know where a candidate stands on an issue that is important to you, call the candidate’s office and ask.
After Tuesday’s big election, I encourage everyone to continue being involved with politics. Schedule an appointment to meet with your representative or write the person a letter. Let them know what issues affect you and be prepared with a specific plan for how they can improve that area. They more often a legislator hears from their constituents about a topic, it sends the massage that it is a priority for the people who they represent.
If you need help contacting your representatives or educating yourself about what they’ve been up to, visit https://www.congress.gov/members for national officials and http://www.leg.state.mn.us for state officials.
Payne McMillan ’15 firstname.lastname@example.org is from BlueBell, PA. He majors in English.