Capitol Update: Rep. Heather Meyer says voters must go to polls to combat extremism

Rep. Heather Meyer. Image courtesy Heather Meyer.

Each week during the 2022 Kansas legislative session, we will provide all Shawnee Mission area legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol.

Below is this week’s submission from Democratic Rep. Heather Meyer of Kansas House District 29, which covers a segment of Overland Park. 

Democratic Rep. Susan Ruiz and Republican Sen. Mike Thompson were also given opportunities this week to submit columns. 

The views expressed in each Capitol Update are solely those of the lawmaker and are not reflective of the Post’s position on any matter discussed.

Vote like our democracy is at stake, because it is.

More and more we watch as our rights are being jeopardized by extremists, while people fall prey to disinformation campaigns under the guise of rebuking mainstream media and eschewing facts for confirmation bias. It’s happening on the left and the right. No one is immune.

And why? Because we’re allowing radicalized voices to overtake the conversation, and we aren’t voting them out — or keeping them out — of elected office.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming to be a centrist. In fact, I’m a proud progressive and will never hide that fact. I will continue to support marginalized communities, fight for reproductive rights, engage in the struggle for racial justice and social equity, push for health care for all, try to decriminalize cannabis, address climate change and call for reasonable firearm legislation that protects our communities and our kids.

But those aren’t radical ideas. Those ideas echo what many everyday Americans support.

What I’m talking about has flowed to the surface in social media forums across the country over the last decade. This ideological extremism also bubbled over into local meetings in every community, caused an insurrection and is tied to violence across the country.

Gone are the days of civil conversations about policy differences at local school, city and county meetings, or even in legislative committees. Instead, we’ve seen radicalized individuals threaten and demean board and community members here at home, or present extremist testimony and legislation in Topeka.

Even sitting elected officials have perpetuated hateful rhetoric towards certain communities right here in Kansas, including other legislators.
And this is the problem.

But what can we do about it? Well, there are two things we can do right now: volunteer or donate to candidates and causes, and vote like our democracy depends on it.

Sure, voting isn’t the most exciting thing to do. It’s not cathartic like protesting can feel, and you don’t get to experience the power of pseudo-anonymity like when you get into a debate on social media. It takes time, effort and research. But it is vital to a healthy democracy.

Which brings me to my point: the largest voting bloc in America, are those who don’t vote. That’s right — people who sit out elections can change the outcome.

Did you know that in 2018, which was the last non-presidential year primary election, only 27% of eligible Kansans cast a ballot? And only 56% of those same Kansans voted in the general election that year.

That means that barely half of all Kansans decided who they were going to elect to be your voice: all the way from your neighborhood committee members, to the halls of Congress and everything in between.

So the time is now. We must band together as a community to stop extremism, and that means voting every year, and in every election.

Starting this August 2nd. And if you really want to make a difference, sign up to volunteer or donate to candidates in your district. Trust me-we’re going to need it.

If you’d like to check your registration, change your party affiliation, register to vote, or apply for an advanced ballot, visit www.ksvotes.org