Do You Spend More Time Researching A Restaurant Than A Candidate?

Jennifer Fonstad is a longtime venture capitalist and cofounder of Aspect Ventures, one of the largest female-founded venture funds in the world. She served on Meg Whitman’s Economic Policy Committee and supported her former boss, Mitt Romney, in his elections for senator, governor, and president. The views expressed here are her own.

Thirty years ago, I sat in Madrid with friends excitedly awaiting the results of Spain’s democratic elections. It had only been nine years since the death of Francisco Franco and the country’s peaceful transition to democratic rule. My friends spoke passionately of their role as citizens and the privilege of their vote. I recall a similar moment several years later in Kenya, as citizens voted by physically lining up behind their candidate or a surrogate to vote in their national elections.

I have seen the democratic process at work in Poland — after the wall came down — in the Czech Republic, in France, in England, and in Scotland when I was on the ground for the independence referendum. It is a victory of our age to have so many people worldwide able to participate in the democratic process.

Tomorrow, our country goes to the polls in what may be a historic election. Because 96 years after women received the right to vote, a female presidential candidate stands on the general election ballot.

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Tomorrow, our country goes to the polls in what may be a historic election. Because 96 years after women received the right to vote, a female presidential candidate stands on the general election ballot. It is also the first election where the majority of American workers are now millennials.

Yet, surprisingly, only 49% of voters ages 18 to 29 have said they will "definitely be voting" tomorrow. With the right to vote so hard fought here and around the world, should we expect that more of us would participate in the process? And what does it mean to participate? What can we do about it?

I think we each have the opportunity to have an impact tomorrow, not just with our own vote, but with our capacity to bring others along. Tomorrow, when you vote, bring along, encourage, call out, drive, cajole, help 10 friends and family members get to the polls and vote. I call it the Power of 10 — if everyone exercises it, the power of citizenship will be felt around the globe.

Voting is an opportunity to reflect on what we care about, what our values are, and how we want our neighborhoods and our communities to behave.

The governing decisions being made over the next four years will affect the older population, but the costs and consequences now belong to the millennials and younger generations. Voting matters, but how you vote matters, too.

We often spend more time researching a restaurant or a car for purchase, than on learning about the candidates and propositions in the voting booth. Yet we pay much more for what happens in the voting booth. Voting is an opportunity to reflect on what we care about, what our values are, and how we want our neighborhoods and our communities to behave. As Thomas Paine said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must…undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”

So, stop reading this piece and go spend some time learning a bit more about the decisions you’ll be making tomorrow. And make sure you exercise the Power of 10 and get 10 friends to the voting booth, as well. And perhaps by engagement, we will all feel more represented, that our role makes a difference and leads to less frustration with our government and the outcomes. Pass it along.
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