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Election Day Spending Hangover

vote_500x279I am so glad the November elections are over. Living in a battleground state, I felt like it was the carpet baggers all over again, spending their money in North Carolina to tell me just how bad one or the other of our US Senate Candidates was. The ads would pop up on Pandora, internet searches, the TV, and the radio with dark, depressing messages… I finally lost my cool when three different full-page, multi-color glossy booklets arrived in my mail on November 3rd, all on the same day, filled with propaganda about the candidate that I hadn’t planned to vote for anyway. I am not a swing voter, never have been. And I voted early!

So $100 million dollars later, I still know very little about the Senate candidates and received no information in the mail telling me about our NC Supreme Court candidates, nor the Court of Appeals judges, or even an Amendment on the Ballot that I didn’t know existed, until I was in the poll booth, was confusing, and learned later, would likely put more low income people in the court system in jail. $100 million dollars later, we still have to look under rocks to find money to print booklets about smoking cessation and family planning for new moms much less to support programs to improve the health and wellness of our young men and women in North Carolina. We beg and borrow to find resources to get the lone women’s health message into the media – information that could make a difference in the lives of two generations. There are campaign staff and field teams galore, but we struggle to find resources to keep our coalition, focused on equity and the health of women and children in the southeast, funded.

I get frustrated when I think about the amount of money that was spent to sway political opinion…And thus, I blog…

Imagine what we could’ve done in public health with $100 million dollars in our state. What if campaign funds supported programs that improved the lives of people in North Carolina – they could show the candidates leading by example. What if they matched $1 in advertising with giving $1 to a local non-profit or charity or school bake sale – even better if given directly by the candidate? Sometimes this makes me feel powerless. And then I remember that much change is local and that is something we can influence. I remember that together we can speak truth to power. I remember that as women, we are 54% of the vote, that we manage a lot of household budgets and that we can innovate. Maybe the next time the South gets national political attention, we could insist that fundraisers be held on playgrounds or in community centers with food catered by local residents. We can find creative ways to better spotlight the issues on the real people who are impacted – by the election results and the issues at hand.

Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH is the Director and Co-Founder of the Every Woman Southeast Coalition. She is also the Executive Director for UNC Center for Maternal and Infant Health and the CDC Senior Consultant to the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative.

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