Sunday September 23rd 2018

When nurses vote, Washington listens

If today were Election Day, do you have a plan to vote? Or have you already participated in absentee or early voting? November is right around the corner and the midterm elections will decide which political party controls the U.S. Senate and the balance of power in the House of Representatives. During this election season it’s important to create and commit a plan to voting — know the options and know when and where you can vote.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) is leading a campaign called RNsVote! to encourage nurses to go to the polls. With expected low voter turnout as a result of a midterm election year, it’s important for RNs to get involved in the political campaign of their choice. Nurse voters can help shape the election and bring nursing issues to the forefront.

By some estimates, one in every 45 voters is a nurse, meaning that one nurse truly can make a difference by getting involved with a campaign at any level, from local to federal. Voting is the most fundamental form of advocacy. Being an RN voter and advocate who engages and participates in the election process helps empower voters in the overall political process.

For the 2014 election there will be 11,672 contests and 15,482 candidates in 50 states, according to votesmart.org. If you need help in identifying and choosing a candidate to support, there are a number of resources to help you understand where candidates stand on issues. RNAction.org educates nurse advocates on issues and legislation supporting the profession. Other sites such as votesmart.org and ontheissues.org offer interactive tools that can give advocates new insights.

Voter mobilization campaigns are an integral part of the election process. Every campaign, no matter how big or small, will have opportunities for volunteers to participate in a variety of ways. By getting involved with a campaign, you have an opportunity to engage with candidates on the ground. This is an opportunity to teach candidates about the issues that are important to the nursing community, such as safe staffing, safe patient handling and mobility, durable medical equipment, home health, and nursing workforce development programs (Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act).

Getting voters to the polls will help reverse the downward trend of voter behavior over the past three decades, which indicates that many voters are feeling disenfranchised or are too apathetic even to show up. According to the electionproject.org, general election turnout in presidential election years has hovered between 50 and 60 percent since 1984, with a high of 61.6 percent of eligible voters in 2008 and a low of 51.7 percent in 1996. In midterm election years such as 2014, turnout has remained at about 40 percent.

These trends are not new. But in today’s advocacy culture, participating in the election process can benefit ANA members, the nursing profession and the democratic process as a whole. Take your advocacy to the next level and sign up on RNAction.org to receive RNsVOTE! alerts.

— Monisha Smith is a senior political action specialist at ANA.

Resources

Sign up for grassroots email news and learn more about the issues at www.RNAction.org.

Learn more about early or absentee voting in your state by accessing this map and resource from the National Council of State Legislatures at www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/absentee-and-early-voting.aspx.

Learn about becoming a more effective advocate at www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/Policy-Advocacy/AdvocacyResourcesTools.

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