• Barbara Tieken

Why It's So Important to Vote

Just hanging around the house for the last five days with what, I suppose, are allergies+. Not exactly sure what the “plus” is except that I’m really dragging. It’s giving me a good chance to catch up on some great reading, including Janis Richardson’s fine Letter to the Editor in last Thursday’s Shiner Gazette about Texas voters.

Strange and puzzling, isn’t it, that Lavaca County registered voters, though they represent a high percentage of those eligible to vote, DON’T VOTE.

Wonder why that’s true? We’ve had some good candidates running from both parties, yet the turn-out is still paltry. Why no enthusiasm about elections?

As a former elected official of New Braunfels where I served for nine years on the City Council, two as Mayor, I am well aware that elections are lost or won by who can get the highest turn-out to actually go to the polls. My campaign supporters did everything to help me succeed in three elections …they went door to door talking to residents and handing out flyers; we held campaign rallies at various venues in New Braunfels; I wrote weekly articles or the New Braunfels Herald Zeitung; we made and placed yard signs all over town; I did interviews on the local radio station; and on the day of my first election, rode around the neighborhoods with my daughter, Susan, driving, with me on a “bull horn” reminding voters that today was election day. It worked all three times!

But elections can also get dirty with candidates and their supporters spreading out-and-out lies about their opponents. This was especially true for my first re-election when I was opposed by a prominent New Braunfels attorney, who disappointed me tremendously when his supporters began spreading untruths about me. Let me tell you, even back then in 1981 in a small city of only twenty-thousand plus residents, rumors were flying! Between my astute campaign manager and inner circle of dedicated supporters, we spent many hours refuting false statements spread especially well by the New Braunfels bridge-playing women’s network. The only problem that created for my opponent was that I also had supporters among those women bridge players who would call us immediately, right in the middle of their games, to let us know what falsehoods were being gossiped about over cards. Immediately, we were able to rebut their false statements. And it worked! The ordinary, average working-class people’s candidate won! A year later, I was named Mayor.

I relay this just to let everyone know that the sad political commentary we’re hearing right now on a national level, disgusting as some of it is, needs to be answered strongly and passionately by the truth. If you’re confused by which station is likely to present the most balanced approach to the news of the day, I would suggest the public broadcasting system, PBS, as seen in our area at 6:00 on Channel 9 for The News Hour. There you’ll find ideas presented rationally, giving the opinion of both positions. PBS is like a breath of fresh air compared to some of the fire-breathing, flame-throwing rhetoric we hear on some other channels.

And why is this so important? Because we were founded as a republic of law and order with a magnificent Declaration of Independence and an amazing Constitution. And though it’s been amended at times as laws need to be amended, this is rare, well-thought out, and requires the action of a majority of states to pass. As it should be.

As it was back when Texas women were first given the right to vote, back on July 27, 1918, as described so well by Janis Richardson in last week’s Shiner Gazette. If you missed the article, you can always run by the Shiner Gazette office in their new location and purchase a copy. It’s well worth the read.

I happen to know Janis very well because we both serve on the board of the League of Women Voters of Lavaca County. Janis chairs our group. Remember, the LWV is a non-partisan group of women (and men) whose main goal is to get voters registered and then to urge them to go vote. We in Lavaca County really need to work on that last goal. Go Vote! It’s so basic.

There are many people in the world still fighting and dying to get the right to form democracies and govern themselves. We in the United States are so very lucky to have a mechanism in place to offer safe voting places and a choice of candidates from which to select our future leaders. It is a precious right and privilege that we shouldn’t take lightly.

Just like those first women voters in Texas…all 386,000 of them, as Janis wrote about in her fine article, who were registered in just seventeen days after Governor Hobby signed the bill into law in 1918. They turned out in swarms at the polls…and the rest is history.

And it wasn’t long after that, that three pioneering women from Shiner, Texas…Mrs. Ella E. Lane, Mrs. S. A. Thulemeyer, and Mrs. C. B. Welhausen were all three elected to the Shiner ISD School Board, and began serving their terms in the 1919-1920 school year.

Shinerites, this is our legacy…this is our history…this is our civic duty and responsibility. Please don’t lessen this tremendous achievement of the legislature and Governor William Hobby of the great state of Texas in 1918. Vote! Vote every time you can for School Board, City Council, County Government Officials, Texas Legislative Candidates for both the Texas House and Senate, and for those elected as United States Senators and Representatives, and President.

Our democracy needs you to help it function in a fair, healthy way that serves our own citizens. Do your part! Vote!