Did you know that physicians usually vote at a rate lower than the adjusted rate for the general population? And did you know that we always vote at a rate lower than lawyers? Overall, physicians vote at a rate 8.7% lower than the general population (41.5 vs 50.1%) and 22.1% lower than lawyers (41.5 vs 63.7%). Also the lag in physician voting rates hasn't changed since the 70's.
Why is this? I'd like to think we have as great a sense of civic responsibility as lawyers. Theories about why we don't vote at as high a rate as other professionals include:
- We feel that because our work has a greater social purpose, we aren't as obligated to participate in the civic process.
- We feel disenfranchised as we have less power in the daily runnings of our health care organizations, so feel our vote is less important
- Our professional organizations have focused their discourse less on sociocultural purpose and more on internal affairs, such a reimbursement and professional development.
I'm not sure any of these is the major reason physicians don't vote. I think the real reason we sometimes don't vote is just time. It can be hard to make it to the polls on Election Day. This has certainly been an issue for me. On two occasions, I wound up held up taking care of patients and couldn't get to the polls. But this is relatively easy to prevent, so take a moment today to do two things:
1) Make sure your voter registration is up to date. I got a reminder from our local election commission to do this recently and thank goodness, because I had forgotten to update my address when I moved. Here's a site you can visit to check your registration in any state.
2) Request a mail in ballot. They aren't calling them absentee anymore, thank goodness. I love going to the polls and voting, it gives me a sense of pride to cast my vote. But I've decided to sacrifice this personal satisfaction to be sure that my vote actually counts. The way I see it, you don't fill out a mail in ballot because you are an absentee in the voting process, you fill it out because you think voting is incredibly important and you don't want to not fulfill your obligation.
So get out your vote as a physician! It is our obligation as citizens first, but also as professionals in our society we set the example for others and should be participating in civil discourse. And, while I don't want to start any professional battles, really, we can't do better than lawyers?!