by Bobby Anderson
For nearly 35 years now Sheila Swearingen has been involved in advocacy.
And for the last 15 years the president of the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma has been deeply involved in helping Oklahomans take full advantage of one of their most precious civil rights – the right to vote.
“I’m very interested in advocacy and getting more people involved in what happens after voting to be honest,” Swearingen said. “I think it’s incredibly important for people to get themselves registered and vote but that’s not the end of it. As citizens we really do, in a democracy, say that we the people are the ones upon who the government rests.”
As Oklahomans get ready to vote in the coming days, Swearingen wants to make sure everyone has the information they need before they head to the polls.
MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, CNN, and hundreds more online – there’s no shortage of media outlets from which to receive information. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week voters are bombarded with a non-stop barrage of political information, covering candidates’ every single move.
While the access to information may be unprecedented, Swearingen says it’s not always a good thing.
“It comes back to the individual to take it upon themselves to get non-partisan information,” Swearingen said. “I think people are plugged in but the problem with being plugged in all day is not pulling back and getting the overview, not listening to both sides of the issue and not being able to discern. They may be plugged in and often the media, whether you’re listening to NPR or Fox News it’s appealing to our emotions. I think we need to be using some logic and think deeply about the issues when we go vote.”
GET INFORMED, GO VOTE
The League of Women Voters provides a wealth of information online at www.lwvok.org as well as on Facebook.
The League of Women Voters never supports or opposes any particular candidate.
The message simply is always be informed and exercise your right to vote.
“Take any opportunity get information that is nonpartisan and unbiased,” Swearingen said.
To that end, the League was part of a broad coalition that produced the Oklahoma Voter Guide which is available at libraries across the state.
Online you can go to www.vote411.org fill in your address and it will automatically pull up all the races that will appear on your ballot down to state representative.
The League of Women Voters has chapters in Lawton, Tulsa, Stillwater, Norman and Bartlesville. The group is also in the process of reforming the Oklahoma City Chapter.
“In the Oklahoma City area we have members who are my age, and I’m definitely AARP generation, and we also have millennials,” she said. “What we’re finding is those groups can work really well together if they listen and find out that sometimes they’re on the same page about issues but they may have different ways about communicating those issues.”
Swearingen was recently trained as a precinct official.
“One of the interesting things that was reaffirmed is that you don’t have to vote every single race,” Swearingen said. “If you have a strong preference for a candidate running for county commissioner and you just can’t make up your mind who you want to choose to be the next president you don’t have to vote for president but you can vote for county commissioner.”
“We have a wonderful system in Oklahoma. Our scanners can scan whatever races you choose to vote in. You don’t have to vote the complete ballot. You can pick and choose.”
Volunteers are always needed in helping across the 77 counties and municipalities in getting ballot information. You can go online to the group’s website to learn more.
Starting November 9 Swearingen said the attention will turn to the 2017 legislative session and what issues will likely appear.
Social events are also scheduled throughout the year as well as candidate and issue forums.
Beginning in January school board elections will come into focus and the League will begin pursuing candidate forums.
“We think that school boards are just as important, and in some cases more important than whose going to Oklahoma City,” Swearingen said.
And no matter what party you belong to or whom you support, Swearingen says it’s important to do your part in keeping America great.