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The value of voting – or not – in Central Oregon


Election season can be exhausting. In fact, one Central Oregon woman said she’s so fed up with politics — and more specifically, politicians – that she ripped up her ballot.

Sarah Ryan said Monday she’s been voting for 20 years, but she’s never seen any significant change. She said she’s sick of politicians campaigning to win votes, rather than campaigning to help their communities.

She and her five children have been struggling with housing in Central Oregon for years, even suffering through homelessness for awhile.

Ryan said she feels like her voice isn’t being heard, despite her votes, because she said housing problems here are only getting worse.

Ryan argued politicians need to stop focusing their energy on bashing each other with negative political ads and get out from behind the TV screen.

“Get out and start speaking to people!” Ryan said. “I’m gonna tell you right now, the three years that I was homeless, not one single congressman, not one single person on city council, not one single person did anything to come to talk to me, to see what I thought.”

Ryan said until she can count on politicians to step up and make change, politicians can’t count on her for her vote.

Former Democratic state Rep. Judy Stiegler said she understands Ryan’s frustrations, but added not voting is not the answer.

Stiegler is also an instructor of political science at OSU-Cascades and Central Oregon Community College. Needless to say, she urges everyone to cast their ballot, even if they feel discouraged — because our voices add up.

“As I tell my students, this is your one opportunity to have a voice, even small voice, in making a decision, about who it is that speaks for you in the community, about who it is that makes decisions for you in the community, in the state, in the nation,” Stiegler said.

Whether someone’s voting or not, there’s no avoiding the hundreds of campaign signs scattered around Central Oregon. NewsChannel 21 wanted to know, do those signs actually help politicians or are they simply lawn decorations?

The short answer is, yes. Campaign signs are effective.

Stiegler said they’re especially helpful in local races, where candidates are not as well-known to the public.

Signs help make names more familiar, they act as an endorsement, and they can inspire people to research their candidates. But Stiegler said she prefers one campaign tool above the rest.

“Frankly, probably the most effective thing is going door to door. Knocking on people’s doors and and talking with constituents,” she said.

The deadline to submit your ballot is 8 p.m. Tuesday night.

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