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I registered to vote in Massachusetts nearly 40 years ago, and I’ve cast my ballot in a voting booth there ever since. So when we moved to Portland, Oregon this month, registering to vote was at the top of my to-do list. The stakes are so high and far-reaching this year —especially when you factor in the fate of our planet — that the possibility of NOT voting is unthinkable.

As  Dominique Browning, senior director of Moms Clean Air Force points out, “ We have a choice for president that is going to influence our lives, and our children’s lives, and our grandchildren’s lives…”

Fortunately, my new state not only makes it easy to register, its system of voting by mail allows citizens to focus on candidates and issues rather than on simply getting to the polls.

My ballot arrived last week and I was determined to wield my voting power with laser-like precision to ensure that Oregon continues to do its part in protecting our environment. This meant going beyond my (obvious) choice for president to learn about the positions of down-ballot candidates, and the implications of local ballot initiatives.

A post about ballot measures on the Oregon Environmental Council’s (OEC)  website was particularly informative. I spoke to its author, OEC’s Health Outreach Director,  Jen Coleman, about why voting “yes” to affordable homes, for example, would also help improve air quality in Portland. She explained,

To have healthy people, we need healthy places for them to live. Our hot spots of air pollution in Portland are linked to low income and minority communities.

Therefore, she wrote in her post,

Affordable housing is integral to meeting environmental goals. High housing prices have pushed lower-income residents out to the edges of urban centers where there are fewer transportation choices. The closer people can live to school and work and accessible transit, the less they need to drive—and less driving results in cleaner air and safer streets.

I also asked Jen about assessing local candidates’ commitment to supporting clean air in my new state. While she couldn’t tell me how to vote, she advised me to read the voters’ handbook. In addition to descriptions of candidates and ballot measures, it includes arguments for and against, as well as endorsements, for each. As she said,

The handbook that comes with your ballot is pretty amazing. Look at those recommendations and base your vote on the assessment of those you trust. A tiny race can make a huge difference in how we use our resources.

With that in mind, my husband and I sat across from each other at our dining room table last night and paged through the handbook as we marked our ballots.

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This afternoon, we’ll send them on their way, confident that our votes  will have an impact that reaches beyond our new hometown and for generations to come.

Now, dear readers, it’s your turn. Please, take the pledge.

PROMISE TO VOTE!

This post was produced with support from Clean Air Moms Action. All opinions are, of course, my own.”

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