I’m putting out a challenge to all of us: Let’s beat Oklahoma — again. 

We’ve already done it once this year. As a Longhorn fan, I’m still relishing Texas’ 48-45 victory over OU at the Red River Shootout. 

This next potential victory, however, is not about football.

The topic here is voter turnout. Texas ranks 46th in voter participation, and Oklahoma is 44th. What?! Oklahoma? We can totally do better than Oklahoma. Am I right?

We complain about everything from our roads to our fundamental rights, yet a vast majority of us choose not to participate in a contest that decides who will address these concerns. In the March 2018 primary election, voter turnout in Dallas County was less than 8.5 percent. Wow. 

However, we in East Dallas have a better story to tell. Between Central Expressway and White Rock Lake, our participation at the polls was more than double that of Dallas County, averaging more than 18 percent. Wilshire Heights and Lakewood Heights in precinct 2040 led the pack with 22.5 percent, and precincts 1076 (Lakewood Hills), 2071 (Lakewood), 2070 (Lakewood North and Hillside) and 1071 (Junius Heights and Abrams Brookside) were close behind. And this is consistent for all elections. Whether municipal, county, state or federal, our East Dallas numbers are far greater than around much of the county.

Still, maybe it’s the Asian mother in me, but I know we can do a lot better than 18 percent.

All of us learned it in school — voting is a privilege, voting is important, fellow countrymen have died to ensure that we have a right to a fair election. We were educated on the women’s suffrage movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. So why do we take this privilege for granted?

One of the proudest days of my existence on this planet was when I was sworn in as a U.S. citizen. I was 18 years old, and my best friend at the time accompanied me on the Metra train from the suburbs of Chicago to downtown. She gave me a small U.S. flag to hold (which I have to this day) and witnessed me renounce my Indian citizenship to become an American. 

With hundreds of others just as lucky, I took my oath and, like everyone else in that huge room, I will never, ever forget how fortunate I am. After the ceremony, my girlfriend took me to Bennigan’s for a late lunch to celebrate. A great day indeed!

Perhaps it’s because of that fortune that I am a chronic voter. Becoming a naturalized citizen afforded me the privilege that many are born with. So if there is an election, I am casting my ballot whether it’s Election Day, early voting or (for presidential races from overseas) vote by mail. What originally started in 1985 as a proud outcome of my being naturalized a U.S. citizen is now a habit. 

Whatever the reason for not voting, here’s an out-of-the box idea to change that — perhaps we could increase voter turnout if we made going to the polls a habit. 

We have plenty of opportunities. Just as one election is over, the next is always around the corner. By the end of 2018, many in East Dallas will have had five chances to vote (March primary, May District 9 school board race, May runoff for the March primary, June runoff for the May District 9 school board race, and the November midterms).

By definition, habits are created. They are practices we develop that become an extension of who we are. Some are bad — smoking, drugs, texting while driving. Some are good — eating healthy, exercising, being on time. Bad habits are easy to pick up and hard to break. The good are difficult to adopt and often quick to slip, but are always worth the persistence.

For those who aren’t used to voting, try making it a habit. Start with casting a ballot in this month’s midterm elections. It’s quick and convenient to vote early between Oct. 22 and Nov. 2 because you can do so at any of the county’s 47 polling locations, including the Lochwood Library and the Samuell-Grand Recreation Center in East Dallas. On Election Day — Tuesday, Nov. 6 — you’ll go to your specific voting site. 

If you’re unsure where to go or don’t know what’s on the ballot, visit dallascountyvotes.org to look up your precinct number and voting location and to print out your sample ballot. It’s chock full of valuable information, though I do find the inordinate number of fonts used on the splash page maddening. (Note to self: Make it a habit to not have so many control issues.) The League of Women Voters publishes a voter guide at vote411.org where you can find specific details on every race and each candidate.

After casting your vote, you’ll get a free “I Voted” sticker you can wear proudly all day. Making it a habit to vote will make you feel really good about yourself. 

And it may just help us beat Oklahoma — again. That, I promise, will make us feel really, really good.

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