People who say that there’s no point in paying attention to politics are an untapped reservoir of political power. In the last year, Idahoans have shown that their participation in politics is going to determine the landscape of our state.
First, citizens asked the Legislature for years to do something about the people falling ill, living with injuries, and even dying thanks to a serious lack of quality, affordable healthcare in Idaho.
When the Legislature refused to give the citizens relief, the people took action. Volunteers from across the state knocked doors, attended events, and contacted hundreds of people to get enough signatures to put Medicaid Expansion on the ballot.
The campaign then mobilized to make sure that citizens would understand the importance of passing Proposition 2 by reaching out to their family, friends, and neighbors in counties all across the state. Through a citizen campaign, Medicaid Expansion was passed with 61 percent of the vote. Thanks to the people of Idaho, Medicaid Expansion became law.
When the citizens asked for clean Medicaid Expansion, the Legislature didn’t listen. They tried to repeal it two separate times and worked hard to pass needless, expensive restrictions. Every single time legislation was proposed, Idahoans came from all over the state to voice their discontent.
Unfortunately, a group of representatives jammed through an incredibly damaging piece of legislation despite the citizens’ protest. Now, citizens are mobilized again to protect Medicaid Expansion, but they have to convince the federal government. I have no doubt that Idahoans will work just as hard as they always have to overcome this hurdle.
Meanwhile, a group of legislators was working behind closed doors with wealthy special interest groups on a bill that would gut citizens’ ability to get an initiative on the ballot.
Idahoans protested across the state by calling, emailing, and meeting with their representatives. The Legislature did not listen. When the bill went to the governor, hundreds of Idahoans from different backgrounds urged him to veto the legislation.
The governor’s office received so many calls that they had to keep a tally because there was no time to write names or messages. The governor heard the will of the people thanks to the perseverance of so many people and he vetoed the bill.
I don’t speak only for myself when I say that what ordinary citizens from all over the state accomplished this year was truly astonishing.
Your participation in politics matters and it has the potential to completely change the state. In many 2018 races, elections were won or lost by only a handful of votes. A Democratic senate candidate in Boise lost by only 6 votes!
You have shown your power to influence politics, but we have to start making all Idahoans aware of the importance of their engagement. Invite your family, friends, and neighbors to participate in local politics with you.
All elections matter. Help your community to vote in every election; offices like school boards, commissioners, and city council have so much influence on your life and we have to make sure we are getting the best people in office.
Voting for politicians who propose and pass legislation focused on improving your quality of life is one of the best ways to make sure this state succeeds. We have to hold the legislators who are working every day to undermine the future of our state accountable.
If you want quality healthcare, protected rights, and security for your family then you must show that with your voice. You have the ability to enact big changes in your community if we can work together to support politicians who have your best interest in mind.
This year, Idaho citizens showed up again and again. You showed that your voice is powerful, and it matters. Imagine what we could do if we could get every single citizen engaged.
We have to hold our Legislature accountable when they aren’t doing their job. And we have to make sure that every other public office answers to the will of the people. You determine the fate of this state.
This column was written by state Rep. Chris Abernathy, D-Pocatello.