JOHN STRAND: Taking Liberty — Your Vote Matters; Every Vote Matters

This is no ordinary election year. We trust that you want your votes to matter, to make a difference, to reflect your core values and principles. Between now and Election Day, your personal challenge will be to get up to speed on party platforms, candidates, measures and special election issues.

Every American citizen is equal when it comes to the voting booth. It matters not if you are rich or poor, male or female, young or old, Lutheran or Muslim, brown or white. Therein lies the true power of citizenship and in this American democracy we cherish.

Seldom is there so much in the balance as there is on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. Tipping points in elections are created one vote at a time. Yours could be the vote that sways the direction of the country, state, legislature or on the measures. You could well make the difference.

You likely already know where you stand relative to the presidential race. The differences between the leading party contenders — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — could not be more stark. Adding the Green Party’s Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson, who originally hails from North Dakota, and you end up with very distinct options.

Countless millions of people are disgusted with the state of American politics. There’s a vitriol in this year’s presidential race that very likely is unparalleled in U.S. history. We’ve all watched our political culture become tarnished and tainted. It’s unfortunate beyond words.

Yet when you are in the ballot booth, nothing matters but your voice, your conscience, your choices. The people are the great equalizers.

National and state elections present similar dilemmas and present opportunities. North Dakota’s immediate future lies in the question of whether voters want an extension of what we’ve recently become accustomed to — or if there’s a desire for change.

The reality that we have Republican, Democratic, Libertarian and Green ballot options almost across the board is not typical in these parts. That we have a historic presence of Native Americans running for office in North Dakota is more than noteworthy. That we have the alignment of so many statewide or even local candidates with the extremely polarizing and contentious presidential races presents a wild card. Who’s to say where this will all go? Well, folks, it you who will say. You, the voters.

Will North Dakota join the ranks of the so many other states and open the door to medical marijuana? It rests on your shoulders.

Will tobacco taxes be hiked to support public health?

Will legislators be allowed to move out of their respective home districts and still maintain that elected post?

Will there be a constitutional inclusion of what is purported to be better victim protections?

Will the state Legislature be given permission to dip into public schools trust funds?

Each of these votes makes a world of difference, and each charts a very different course.

The local measure asking the people whether they want extensions of Fargo and Cass County sales taxes to support the F-M Diversion project is important and controversial. What say you? Your vote matters. Every vote matters.

Absentee voting is now under way. Early voting opportunities are many the week prior to the general election.

Early voting takes some online patience. Cass County homepage > county > departments > auditor > elections > early voting > CLICK here. Are you still with us? We hope so. Once you wade through the imperial thicket, it’s not hard.

All early voting locations are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 31 through Nov. 4 (Monday through Friday): Baymont Inn, 3333 13th Ave. S.; Cambria Suites, 850 E. Beaton Drive, West Fargo; Fargodome, 1800 University Drive N., Fargo. Nov.2, 3, and 4 (Wednesday through Friday): Days Inn, 2050 Governors Drive Casselton, N.D.

And then, finally, Nov. 8, Election Day, at your local polling place.

Whether you vote is your decision, of course. Whether you participate in charting the course of our future on so many fronts is up to you, absolutely. Whether you vote for something or someone or against someone or something, is in your hands.

We encourage each of you to acknowledge your personal power and influence every time you vote, but especially in this fateful election.

Do your part. Vote. Be part of the change you want.

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