Education is key before voting
The great English poet William Butler Yeats once said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, it is the lighting of a fire.” Indeed, having the desire to search for answers is essential in today’s society, especially in terms of the issues that matter most. A recent AARP survey of New Hampshire undecided “swing voters” noted that accessibility to affordable health care and ensuring financial security are two of the key issues that demand further education and discussion. This makes perfect sense, given the statistics that show our state’s swing voters are white older women with lower to middle income. A sizable 43 percent are AARP members, with 68 percent over age 50 and 36 percent over age 65. In examining the numbers, it became abundantly clear to us that not only do AARP members form a sizable bloc of the swing voters, they may also hold the key to who will run our state and country over the next few years. Given this fact, AARP has undertaken a far-reaching educational campaign so our 240,000 members will have access to the latest information on critical policy positions. For starters, we developed Divided We Fail, an initiative based on the premise that access to health care and lifetime financial security is a basic need that all Americans share. Granite Staters have embraced this platform both from the standpoint of civic engagement and stark reality - 81 percent of survey respondents expressed concern about their personal financial security for retirement and 84 percent believe that we have an obligation to future generations to “protect Social Security.” We’ve also created voters’ guides that highlight top domestic issues and the candidates’ positions. Both in hard copy and online, the guides provide candidates with an opportunity to give their thoughts on issues as varied as increasing consumer choice to affordable health care, Social Security and long-term care. What we found in some cases surprised us. We have no doubt that those who take the time to review the guides will come away not only better informed, but also with the basis for follow-up questions that will determine who represents their best candidate choice. Finally, we’ve taken a leadership role in sponsoring candidate debates. First and Second Congressional District candidates as well as U.S. Senate candidates square off in debates based on our ambitious platform. Moderated by former WMUR political reporter Scott Spradling, these debates give panelists with backgrounds in health care, financial security, business and consumer advocacy a chance to ask questions before a room of “swing voters” as well as other interested citizens. Becoming better informed is imperative to making any decision, let alone one as important as determining the future leaders of our state and country. By listening to the electorate and creating tools that will allow voters to learn more about the vital issues that unite all of us, we feel that we’ve helped to position New Hampshire to make decisions based on the facts. Rather than simply filling the pail by stimulating discussion, we’ve lit the fire that will continue to blaze through Election Day and beyond.
Ally McNair is volunteer AARP New Hampshire state president. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org/nh.