Political Report: Every Vote Counts

Friday, November 16, 2007

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POLITICAL REPORT

CHRIS COX, NRA-ILA Executive Director

Every Vote Counts

The newspaper is out there in the driveway every morning. With the way things have been going in Washington, lately I've been feeling like I should poke it with a stick before I pick it up.

The media celebrates every time a lawmaker retires from his seat, seeing an opportunity to gossip and speculate. All I see is work ahead. That seat will now have to be filled, and that means there will be an election. With the incumbent out of the picture, these elections are wide open.

The same is true when lawmakers quit to take another job, or are unable to continue their service due to illness or death. We've seen all of these situations this year, and more may be coming.

Every voter who decides the state elections aren't worth the time will be surrendering the opportunity to help shape the U.S. Senate race in 2008, and maybe even shift control of the Senate itself.

Regardless of circumstance, that seat has to be filled, whether with a special election or an open contest on the next regular ballot. And that means our work is never done.

Please cast aside the temptation to assume that these special elections and open seat races are rare and isolated events, separate and aside from our regular election work. The truth is that every election matters, and every election has implications for the ones that will follow.

Here's one example: Virginia will have its regular off-year elections this November to elect state lawmakers. Virginia u.s. Senator John Warner has just announced he will not run again in 2008. Now, the upcoming state elections have become a bellwether for the Senate race next year. The outcome of this year's state elections will determine which candidates enter the race for next year's Senate contest. The relative strength of these candidates, of course, will determine who wins the Senate seat, and perhaps shift the balance of power in the Senate.

Turnout is historically low in the off-year state elections, so every voter who does cast a ballot will have a larger impact on the outcome. Every voter who decides the state elections aren't worth the time will be surrendering the opportunity to help shape the u.s. Senate race in 2008, and maybe even shift control of the Senate itself.

No election is an isolated event. Besides Virginia, four other states have gubernatorial or state legislative elections in this off year--Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky and New Jersey. The contests in all of these states will have a ripple effect that leads directly to Washington. That ripple effect will determine our strength in defending the Second Amendment.

Even if you don't live in those states, your turn is still coming fast in the presidential race. Many states are jockeying to move their primary elections further and further up in the schedule. Every state wants to be relevant in the primary process, and that means they're no longer willing to accept Iowa and New Hampshire's historical status as the leaders of the pack. Some states could even hold their 2008 presidential primaries before

2007 is over. You might have less time to get ready for the presidential campaign than you have to do your Christmas shopping.

Are you ready to vote? If you recently moved, you will need to update your voter registration. Most states close registration well ahead of elections, by 30 days in most cases. So if a presidential primary comes to your state in 2007, your window for updating your registration may be closing now. The same is true for new registrations, so if you're going to update your own, take the time to recruit some friends, family or other shooters who aren't registered at all, and get them on the voter rolls.

The timeframe is even tighter for those serving abroad in our armed forces. Our nation can project military power anywhere on the globe, but a full collection of absentee ballots for every state isn't generally on the packing list. The Congress has passed laws to try and streamline military voting, and the Department of Defense has worked to help, but as recently as last year the Congressional Accountability Office issued a report entitled "Department of Defense Expands Voting Assistance to Military Absentee Voters, But Challenges Remain."

We all remember the razor-thin margin of victory in the 2000 presidential race. Barely more than 500 voters made the difference between George W. Bush and Al Gore. But military ballots were still coming in, after the deadline. We shouldn't have to debate whether service members should have the right to vote in a timely fashion, but the truth is that many still don't. And the bottom line is that a late ballot is a wasted ballot. If you know someone serving overseas, ask him or her if you can help get the right absentee ballot, in time to make it count.

It's not just the presidential race that was close. In the past two cycles, dozens of House seats were won or lost by margins of a couple hundred votes. If you think your vote doesn't matter, you're just plain wrong.

But that doesn't mean you have to go it alone. There are many tools at your disposal at our website, www.nraila.org. We have links to state websites, and procedures for registration and obtaining absentee ballots. If you can't find what you need, just give us a call at 1 (800) 392-vote, and we'll be happy to help.

But don't wait. Every day that newspaper lands in the driveway means we're another day closer to the next election. Our strength is at the polls--and for the next 12 months, we're going to need every bit of it.

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