By Dana E. Neuts

Mike Tucker, 71, of Lacey, was 21 when he first registered to vote. As the child of a World War II veteran who fought in France and Germany, he was eager to cast a ballot in his first presidential election. It was 1968—Nixon versus Humphrey (and Wallace).

“Those were the turbulent ’60s. It was the year Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King were assassinated. Deep conflict existed across the country,” said Tucker. “I can’t help but see some parallels to our current political and social environment.”

Tucker’s passion for civic engagement is why he became a volunteer for AARP Washington 10 years ago. He currently serves as its volunteer state president, a role in which one of his duties is to encourage older adults to vote in the midterm elections on Nov. 6.

“There are a lot of important issues facing the country, and seniors in particular, which our government needs to address,” Tucker said. “It is critical that seniors take responsibility and exercise their rights as voters.”

AARP Washington is getting the word out on vital state and national issues so voters know what’s at stake in this election. The future of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, health care, long-term care and family-caregiver leave are topics of particular concern to older people.

To raise the profile of these issues, AARP is cosponsoring a series of “Age Wave” candidate forums in conjunction with the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging and Disability Services, the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging and other members of the state’s Age Wave Coalition.

Candidate forums

Forums are scheduled for Friday, Sept. 14, 1 to 3 p.m., at SHAG Tukwila Village, Tukwila; and Friday, Sept. 28, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., at North Bellevue Community Center, Bellevue. More sessions are being developed.

“These forums are a chance for citizens to express concerns and ideas on topics that are important to them, specifically around issues related to aging,” said Jon Rudicil, state director of the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

Traditionally, midterm elections don’t draw as many voters as presidential elections, but they are just as important, said Cathleen MacCaul, advocacy director for AARP Washington.

To encourage voting this fall, AARP is sponsoring debates featuring U.S. Senate and House candidates and is working with volunteers on a “Get out the vote” postcard campaign. AARP Washington is also focusing on state legislation for a long-term care trust.

“Long-term care is not paid for by Medicare, and Social Security usually does not provide enough financial assistance to pay for the high cost,” said MacCaul.

These critical issues are on the line, MacCaul added. “Candidates must listen to the voices of voters 50 and older, the nation’s most powerful voting bloc.”

Does one vote really matter? Tucker said yes.

“I have voted in every local, state and national election. I can’t begin to list the number of closely contested elections I have witnessed in my lifetime,” he said. “Any nation that calls itself a democracy where large numbers don’t vote is unworthy of the term.”

To learn more about the forums and other election events, visit aarp.org/wa.

Dana E. Neuts is a writer living in Seattle.