The League of Women Voters of Evanston and other organizations have provided many opportunities during the past several months for the citizens of Evanston to register to vote. Despite stories to the contrary, we were excited by the number of young people who registered, especially 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the general election.  The efforts of ETHS and Northwestern are noteworthy and give us hope that young people will get to the polls on March 15.

We are all familiar with “your vote is your voice” and love this slogan, but maybe it doesn’t really get at the question, “why vote?” Each of us needs to understand what’s at stake. We will vote for candidates for federal, state and county offices.  The individuals we choose will deal with issues that affect our lives, including the appointment of the next Supreme Court Justice, the Illinois budget affecting funds for social services and education, how our criminal justice system works, and the quality of our water. The decisions our elected officials will make is the most important reason to vote. 

There are other reasons to vote:

 • Elected officials care about what voters think; if we don’t vote, our concerns may not matter to them.

• Every vote does count – we have all seen incredibly close races.

• If you don’t vote for what you believe in, others will, and you may not like the outcome.

• Because it’s easier than you think – with multiple ways to register, early voting, voting by mail, and registration on the day of the election, it’s easy.

• You aren’t only voting for yourself; you’re voting for your children and their future.

So, between now and the Primary Election on March 15, what will you do to prepare?

Here’s what we suggest:

• Find out about the candidates and their positions: watch debates and forums, read the papers, check the websites (but of course, be careful).

• Decide what you’re looking for in a candidate.

• Evaluate the candidates’ stands on the issues important to you.

• Learn about the candidates’ leadership abilities.

• Talk about the candidates and issues with friends, relatives and coworkers.

• Verify your voter registration and make sure you know where to vote: www.cookcountyclerk.com or 312-603-5656.

We each have the ability to increase voter turnout. How you can help: Talk to people about the candidates and the issues and why you feel it’s important to vote. Find out whether your family, friends, and neighbors have what they need to make informed decisions and get to the polls. Maybe all that’s needed is a ride.

There are more than 44,000 registered voters in Evanston. Let’s make this the year that a very high percentage of those voters cast their ballot in the Primary Election. Keep democracy healthy – exercise your right to vote on March 15.

Jennifer Lee O’Neil, LWVE Voter Services