Greeson: Today's the last chance to make sure you're registered to have a real voice

Greeson: Today's the last chance to make sure you're registered to have a real voice

October 9th, 2018 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

Jamie Hightower and Carolyn Tatum, election officials, help LaVerne and Ben Bonine of Lookout Valley, Tennessee, get their ballots to vote during early voting at the Hamilton County Election Commission Friday, July 13, 2018 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. While LaVerne was stating that they tend to participate in early voting to avoid the election day crowds, Ben jokingly chimed in with, "we might be in heaven before the real thing."

Photo by Erin O. Smith

I asked Sharon Alexander if she was a glutton for punishment.

"Please do not write a story about me," she said with the earnestness of someone understanding the big picture and the understanding of someone trying to keep everyone around her on task.

This is not about Sharon Alexander. It's bigger than her.

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

But for a woman who is a longtime Buffalo Bills fan — "It's hard being a Bills fan," she admitted — and who has signed on as the co-president of the Chattanooga League of Women Voters, well, it's easy to picture Alexander doing Rubik's Cubes over breakfast and trying jigsaw puzzles looking only at the backs of the pieces.

"Sure it can be frustrating," Alexander said of the hard push the League of Women Voters is making to get as many people registered to vote as possible for the upcoming November ballots. "It is frustrating, to be in a place especially where there are a lot of active people who are marching for their rights but not going to vote for their rights."

The organization has expanded its horizon in chasing the voting-registration realm's unicorn — young people.

There are placards on tables at hip restaurants such as Feed. There were concerts that have been organized by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students who work with the League.

Sure, there are the traditional tables at community events and sign-up scenarios at a lot of local gatherings. But there's also the "Exercise your right to vote" movement in which volunteers are going to walk or ride bikes to the polls with voters to make sure that the folks on the rolls also are getting to the ballot box.

"We had some young UTC students put together some music shows to reach young people," Alexander said. "We are on tables at places that serves breakfast and lunch, in salons and barber shops. Really, whomever would take them, and the local people were great.

"We have the traditional voter registrations as well, but the rock concerts and the table ideas, we experimented. We're open to anything, to be honest."

As well they should be, especially here. And especially now.

And this part of the country seriously needs the help. According to USA Today last December, Tennessee ranked 40th in the nation in voter registration and dead last in voter turnout last year.

In the August primaries, a smidge more than 57,000 Hamilton County voters participated. That number is fewer than 30 percent of the registered voters in the county.

We as a culture have never been more polarized politically. And while there are folks out there trying to register folks they believe would be more aligned with a certain political point of view, the League of Women Voters is an island of nobility in a sea of volatility. A nonpartisan ship riding the tides of partisan hurricanes.

There's still time to register for the November election. Go to Govotetn.com or vote411.org for details, but today is the deadline for the next voting process. But know this: even if you miss the November ballots, getting registered is the first step.

Getting educated, regardless of which side of the aisle your views may fall on, is almost as important.

But the first step is getting registered.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6343.

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