By Carrie Muehling
BLOOMINGTON - The Illinois Farm Bureau is working to make sure its members vote in next month's general election.
In addition to being a presidential election year, many individuals are finding themselves in new legislative districts because of the redistricting process that occurs every 10 years.
"Farm Bureau has a nonpartisan informational campaign where we are encouraging our members to make sure that they are registered to vote and that they become informed voters, becoming familiar with their districts, the candidates and the issues," said Liz Hobart, associate director of national legislation and policy development for the Illinois Farm Bureau.
A key deadline is approaching Oct. 9, which is the last day people can register to vote. Also in Illinois, Oct. 10-Nov. 3 is a grace period registration. The State Board of Elections has a link on their website where people can verify that they are registered to vote.
Hobart said it is important that people identify the issues that are important to them. These could include the economy, state and federal budgets, taxes, jobs, and healthcare.
"The election process allows us as individuals an opportunity to make sure that our voice is heard and that we are electing individuals to represent us, because these are the individuals that are making the decisions that impact us every day. That's part of our democracy and it's a powerful way for individuals to make sure that their voice is heard," said Hobart.
Issues specific to agriculture include tax policies, regulations, and economic recovery items.
One of the main components of the campaign is a website at www.ilfb.org/vote. The website includes links to where to register, how to register, locating one's district, locating a candidate, and an online voter handbook with information about each candidate and where he or she stands on a number of issues.
Hobart said the recent redistricting presents more of a challenge because people are unfamiliar with candidates - even those candidates who have been in office for many years. That makes it even more important to do some homework and learn about the candidates and the issues.
Hobart noted voter turnout continues to decline. The March 2012 primary showed downstate Illinois voter turnout to be 16-30 percent.
"That means that fewer than three in 10 people felt that was important for their voice to be heard by voting, and that's where we are hopefully we are really trying to make an effort to make sure that individuals are registered and that they are going to the polls, because it is their voice and they do need to make sure to be a part of the process, because otherwise it is less than a majority of the folks that are electing these individuals that are making decisions that impact us each and every day," said Hobart.
She encouraged people to pay attention to the upcoming deadlines and make sure they are registered to vote. Illinois also offers absentee voting beginning Sept. 27 and early voting Oct. 22-Nov. 3.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at email@example.com.