Will You Choose To Be Heard On Election Day?

by Shaun Burke, MBA Chairman

Shaun Burke, MBA Chairman, Guaranty Bank, SpringfieldEight. That’s how many campaign commercials I saw during the 35-minute local newscast at 10 p.m. nearly two weeks before the Nov. 6 election. And, it should come as no surprise to you that all the commercials focused on one particular statewide race — the U.S. Senate. The ads were either for or against the incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill or her challenger, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley.

I won’t get into the specifics of these ads, which most of you have most likely seen in your area, too. However, the tone and nature of these ads made me wonder — does this type of message motivate you to vote, or does it turn you off?

I’ll be the first to admit that these ads frustrate me, and I can understand how they may cause some voters to dismiss their responsibility to cast their ballots. However, what if we all adopted this attitude? What does it say about our society?

Just four years ago, during the last midterm election, only 36.4 percent of voters showed up at the polls for the November 2014 election — the lowest turnout in 70 years. Thirty-six states experienced a decrease in voter turnout, and Missouri ranked first in the nation for the largest decrease. (“2014 midterm election turnout lowest in 70 years,” PBS News Hour, 11/10/14)

I hope we don’t see this repeated in a couple of weeks. Actually, I believe Missouri voters will show up in large numbers this time. Their motivations for voting will vary, but all will be united in exercising their constitutional right.

When you go to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 6, your ballot will have numerous races and issues for you to decide. This includes three measures on legalizing marijuana in Missouri. If any or all these measures pass, it will significantly affect our industry and some of our customer relationships. If medical marijuana becomes legal in Missouri, it is still recognized as an illegal drug under federal law. As bankers, this puts us in a bind with the federal banking laws we must follow. I encourage you to read MBA President and CEO Max Cook’s column that goes into more details on this issue and the potential conflicts Missouri banks will encounter with the federal law if Missouri voters approve these measures.

In terms of our federal government, we will elect lawmakers to represent us in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. Given the current political environment nationwide, both the Republican and Democratic parties boast their supporters will make their voices heard loud and clear on Election Day. There are several tight House and Senate races nationwide, including Missouri’s Senate race between McCaskill and Hawley. Depending on these races’ outcomes, it could alter which party controls the Senate and House in the next Congress.

And, this could potentially halt the legislative progress our industry has recently achieved with regulatory reform. We need lawmakers in Washington who understand banking’s vital role in creating and strengthening economic development in our communities. Losing these voices in the House and Senate will be detrimental to our industry. Friends of Traditional Banking is a nonpartisan grassroots effort that has identified key races in the House and Senate of lawmakers who face challenges to unseat them. These representatives and senators recognize our commitment to economic growth. Although you can’t vote for these lawmakers, you can support their campaigns and help get their messages heard in their districts and states.

Learning about candidates and their views on the issues is necessary to be an informed voter. This involves taking time to read news articles, attend forums and listen to debates, as well as reaching out to the candidates to directly ask any questions you may have. If you happen to receive the local newspaper, you may have already seen a printed sample ballot for your voting precinct. Take time to review the ballot, especially the language with various measures. In addition to the local, county and statewide races, there are seven statewide measures on the Nov. 6 ballot, including the three marijuana measures. Please read these and understand what a “Yes” or “No” vote means for our state.

And, encourage people to vote! Many of you may know first-time voters. Take every opportunity to tell these new voters why it is imperative they cast a ballot. As bankers, we have ample opportunities to remind our employees, customers and community about voting Nov. 6. Consider posting reminder messages on your marques or electronic billboards, placing signs at your teller or drive-through windows, or sharing posts on your bank’s social media accounts. This is just a small way we can promote participation in our democracy.

With two weeks remaining until Election Day, the commercial ads, fliers in your mailboxes and phone calls from various campaigns will intensify. Some of you will repeatedly say that you can’t wait for the election to be over. And, it will be soon. However, when Nov. 6 rolls around, you must first decide if you will make your voice heard at the ballot box or if you will remain silent.

As for me, I’ll be voting Nov. 6. Voting is a right, and it’s a responsibility. Our votes determine the course of actions taken by elected officials at every level of our government. The men and women in these offices represent us, our communities and our customers. We have an obligation to hold them accountable and ensure they represent the best interests of their constituents. My vote matters, and I want it to be heard.

Will you let your vote be heard, or will you stay quiet? I’ll find out soon enough when I watch the 10 p.m. news Nov. 6, minus the noise from the political ads. 

Shaun Burke is president and CEO of Guaranty Bank in Springfield. Burke has led Guaranty Bank since 2004 and has more than 30 years of banking experience. He has served on the MBA Board of Directors since 2012 and has chaired the MBA’s Legislative Affairs Committee and the Budget and Audit Committee.

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