The Autodesk Point of View is our Autodesk internal provocative op-ed, published monthly by our Strategic Foresight team, where we discuss the big ideas that have the potential to significantly impact our customers and our business in the next 10 years. Today's blog post comes to us from Andrew Friendly who authored it for our latest issue and shared his own personal views. Andrew is Associate Vice President in Government Affairs. Our Government Affairs team advocates for public policies and government actions globally that create opportunities and mitigate risks for the company, help solve critical public challenges, and support our corporate values. The theme of this month's issue was decision-making.
When you think about voting, what comes to mind? Maybe you've participated in every national, state, and local election since you turned 18. Perhaps you're considering voting for the first time. Maybe you're disillusioned and feel strongly your vote doesn't matter? I strongly believe that it does.
I want to share some thoughts about political decision-making, also known as the electoral process.
Why do I care so much about this? I grew up in Washington, DC, surrounded by politicians and government workers committed to making the United States and the world a better place for current and future generations. I was very fortunate to spend six years at the side of President Clinton as he worked to grow the economy and to improve the lives of millions. Government does not always succeed, and far too often, partisan politics get in the way, but I have seen first-hand how the right policies and government programs can dramatically help.
You are likely aware of the high-stakes American election this November, but we have seen major elections this year in Israel, Singapore, Taiwan, Poland, and South Korea. For anyone still questioning the value of voting — especially in the US — I hope to inspire you to make a decision to cast a ballot. For everyone who decides to vote (including readers from Australia or South Korea where nearly 80% of the eligible population participates) I have a message for you too:
Voting alone is not enough. We must engage our public officials after the election and hold them accountable to the decisions they make.
It used to be easy to feel disconnected from government and wonder what politicians are good for. Then a global pandemic upended our lives.
If there was ever a year to convince you that government has a profound impact on your life, this is that year. The individuals who run our countries, our states, our cities, and our school boards are deciding if we can leave our homes or travel to see loved ones, whether our kids can attend school, when you can go to the grocery store, where you have to wear a mask, who can afford rent or healthcare, and when will we see a vaccine.
As a company, we are navigating country-specific regulations across the globe and relying on timely information from governments to keep our employees safe. At a macro level, governments are making decisions every day that impact our industries' economic recovery.
Even in normal times, government has enormous impact on Autodesk's business and our customers. Governments around the world directly fund and build infrastructure and public buildings, institute policies requiring BIM, support local manufacturing and invest in workforce training. They have a large role in technology research & development, regulating data use and privacy, and crafting new taxes and trade policy.
US elections are known for their low voter turnout: around 60% during presidential years and 40% during mid-term elections. For those who have made the decision to not vote in November because you think your vote doesn't matter, let me offer a few stories out of so many.
When Al Franken, the former Saturday Night Live comedian, ran for Senate in Minnesota in 2008, he defeated his opponent by just 312 votes out of almost 2.9 million. That win gave the Democrats the 60-vote supermajority needed to enact a near trillion-dollar economic stimulus.
Participation in state and local elections is even worse. Nationwide, only about 1 in 4 voters take part in municipal elections.
A Virginia House of Delegates race in 2017 with 23,000 votes cast ended in a tie and David Yancey was declared the winner by pulling a name from a bowl. Importantly, that win gave the Republicans control of the State House with his single seat.
In my town of Wellesley, Massachusetts, only about 2,500 voters cast their ballot for each of our School Committee seats. These officials are now deciding if and how kids will go back to the classroom and provide relief to the thousands of parents trying to teach and work at home.
And while it's easy to be disillusioned, voting is a right many have risked their lives for. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees women's right to vote. For more than 70 years, suffragists in the United States fought to give women a voice at the ballot box. Yet many take this for granted and don't exercise this privilege.
For many around the world, going to a polling place is still a challenge, if not a potentially deadly act. In the most recent Afghanistan election, 85 people were killed and 373 were injured. Election-related violence continues to be a threat in a host of African countries. In fact, according to the 2019 Democracy Index, only 22 countries are "full democracies" where civil liberties and basic political freedoms are respected and culturally reinforced. The United States is not one of them in part due to low political participation.
So, in November, vote like government matters. Because it does. Take time to research the candidates, the issues, and the best voting option available. Maybe that means requesting a mail-in ballot or voting early. I am grateful that Autodesk is making it easier with expanded voting time off and resources available on TurboVote.
Also, know that voting is not enough. Our Government Affairs team regularly engages officials on issues important to the company and so should you on issues important to you and your community. At all levels of government, decision-making breaks down when the communities who have the most knowledge and will be most impacted by the decision, don't weigh in. Democracy is a contact sport; we get the leaders we deserve. Learn more about who is representing you at every level. Sign up for their newsletters. Follow their work in your local paper. Call or write them and get to know them. Hold them accountable for their decisions.
Because you do have influence. Your decision to vote counts. Two years ago, my then 16-year-old daughter was too young to vote but was upset that our town was considering closing our neighborhood elementary school. So she ran for, and was elected to, Town Meeting. Since the 17th century, this form of direct democracy has governed many Massachusetts towns. It is as local as you can get. Even though she couldn't cast a ballot in her own election, she is now a decider in how the Town's $168 million budget is allocated, the sustainability programs we implement, and what schools to keep open!
You don't need to run for local office — it would be great if you do — but please make your voice heard. Decide to vote.
Because just as robust and inclusive decision-making at Autodesk requires courage and stakeholder input, so does democracy.
Recognizing the importance of voting is alive in the lab.