by Rosario Dawson
(CNN) — Fifteen hundred elections and ballot initiatives will be decided Election Day 2013. Although no congressional or presidential candidates are on the ballot, the results of the votes will have a significant impact on the everyday lives of millions of Americans.
With so much on the line, we Americans owe it to our families, friends, neighbors and communities to get out to the polls. Today, September 24, is National Voter Registration Day, which gives millions of Americans who aren’t on the voter rolls a chance to easily register.
On Election Day, which falls on November 5, the outcomes of many major political races will be determined, including the governorships of New Jersey and Virginia. Once elected, these governors will work with their legislatures to draft their states’ budgets and determine how much road improvements, parks and school systems will be funded and whether state taxes will go up, down or stay the same.
Several mayoral elections will also be decided in November, including the race to lead New York City, America’s largest metropolis. Parents will be asked to determine the makeup of school boards, many of which face tough decisions because of budget cuts — one of the toughest being whether to close schools. Entire communities will need to determine the outcomes of ballot referendums that will amend state constitutions or establish or recall local laws that affect everyone in the community.
It is important that all Americans help make those decisions. To that end, more than 800 organizations, including the National Association of Secretaries of State, are taking part in the largest one-day effort of the year to register voters and secure their participation in the American political system.
Identified as a national day for civic action, National Voter Registration Day brings together nonprofits, volunteers, celebrities and political leaders to engage potential voters on the ground through coordinated events nationwide. From bus and rail stops, to retail stores and malls, to concerts and fairs, thousands of voter registration events are planned.
Why create a day to bring national attention to voting? Because voting is the bedrock of our democracy and how every American takes ownership of the communities where we live, work and play. Voting is also the easiest way to make your opinion known on any issue — local, state or national — that’s important to you and your family.
To improve our schools, we must vote. To restore or build new parks that our kids can safely play in, entire communities must vote. To improve our transportation infrastructure, every American has to vote.
In 2012, more than 300,000 Americans registered to vote during the first National Voter Registration Day. This year, we will continue to do for civic engagement what Earth Day does for global warming and environmental awareness.
On September 24, we encourage and welcome all Americans who aren’t on the voter rolls to join us in a celebration of our democracy by registering to vote.