vote

How to Vote in the US (Step by Step)

Your Voter Resource Guide

At Common Ground Committee, our goal is to bring individuals together from all sides to bring light, not heat, to public discourse.  We also believe that voting is every citizen’s right, responsibility and a privilege.  This year, understanding how to vote is more complicated as the country meets the challenges of the pandemic.  

We are here to help you through the voting process — from registering and finding your voting location (or learning how to vote remotely) to learning about the issues and the candidates. 

Get started now with the few easy steps below!

5  Easy Steps to Vote 

Each one of these steps are critical to make your opinion, voice, and vote count on election day.

Step #1: REGISTER to vote

Whatever your political preference, your right to vote gives you the chance to be heard and impact the direction of our country. According to data from the U.S. Elections Project in 2016, 43 percent of voters did not fill out their ballots. Why? Many Americans don’t know enough about the voting process, how to register, or are unaware of registration deadlines. Rock the Vote provides an easy link to get started on your registration in moments. Vote411 from the League of Women Voters Education Fund can also help you check your registration status, get registered, and find information about the issues.

Step #2: Know WHERE to vote

If you aren’t requesting an absentee ballot, make sure you know where you can vote — and have a plan to get there. Of the 29 percent of older adults who did not vote in 2016 (approximately 2,262,000 voters), about half were held back by poor access to transit. Ride share programs and volunteer transportation assistance are available across the country to help seniors and others with mobility challenges get to the polls.

Step #3: Know WHERE candidates stand

Before you cast your vote, make sure you’re informed about the candidates and their stances on today’s issues. Tools like BallotReady and VoteSmart help sort the information on thousands of politicians and the thousands of issues at stake. Common Ground Committee also has a unique tool, the Common Ground Scorecard, to rate politicians on how well they reach across the aisle to find common ground.

Step #4: Have the IDENTIFICATION you need

Some states require proof of identification to vote. Make sure you have the correct personal identification needed in your state (if any) to cast your ballot. 

Step #5: VOTE!

Whether it’s your first time voting or you’ve exercised your right many times, making a priority to get there is the most important step of all. You have a voice and the privilege, so stand up for what you believe. Races can be closer than you’d imagine — so just do it!

Resources for Informed Voting

A sign of a healthy democracy at work is an active network of advocates providing the tools for an educated population. Here are some of ours here in the U.S.

Tool #1: Ballotpedia

Ballotpedia is a non-profit organization focused on educating the public on current political issues, elections, current candidates, and more. Whether you are considering running for office, contemplating your voting options, or looking for the latest news from an unbiased source, Ballotpedia is a tool committed to clarity and neutrality.

Website: https://ballotpedia.org
Instagram: @ballotpedia
Facebook: @Ballotpedia
Twitter: @ballotpedia

Tool #2: VoteSmart

Looking for information on the latest candidates and elected officials? Votesmart has profiles, voting records, contact information, issue positions, public statements, and more. One of its key features is the “Political Courage Test,” which offers a unique kind of transparency: insight into how likely candidates are to give straightforward answers to voters’ questions.

Website: https://justfacts.votesmart.org/
Instagram: @Votesmart
Twitter: @VoteSmart

Tool #3: Vote411

Vote411 is known as a one-stop-shop for information you need for the election process: the ability to check your registration status, to register, find upcoming events, discover (and decipher) questions on your ballot, simplify steps for first-time voters, and more. An interactive state-by-state map is a hallmark of the site.

Website: https://www.vote411.org/
Instagram: @vote411
Facebook: @vote411
Twitter: @VOTE411

Tool #4: When We All Vote

It’s critical it is for all citizens to participate in the political process; that’s the belief that drove the formation of When We All Vote. This nonpartisan non-profit organization was founded in 2018 by Michelle Obama, Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, Chris Paul, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. Their ideology? That the country is in a better place and can move forward successfully when, you guessed it — we all vote.

Website: https://www.whenweallvote.org/
Instagram: @whenweallvote
Facebook: @WhenWeAllVote
Twitter: @WhenWeAllVote

Tool #5: Common Ground Scorecard 

Let us be one of your trusted resources! The Common Ground Scorecard is your free, online guide for identifying candidates who seek common ground to make progress on the issues. Interactive features (such as a map) help you identify your elected officials (so you don’t have to look them up) making it easy to use. You can even compare up to six candidates.

Website: https://www.commongroundscorecard.org/
Instagram: @commongroundcommittee
Facebook: @commongroundcommittee
Twitter: @commongroundcom

Check back here for future updates on voting. Also check out our recent Op Ed on mail-in voting, and sign up for our newsletter. The upcoming September issue is all about voting and resources to help you vote! 

What Good Looks Like, Part 3: Sharing Messages of Hope & Caring

By Erik Olsen, Co-Founder

At Common Ground Committee, one of our objectives is to show what good looks like. As we navigate our way through a global pandemic that is impacting our economy, healthcare system and social structures, we’ve been heartened to hear how leaders and everyday citizens are showing kindness and thinking of neighbors.

Thank you for sharing your experiences and observations of how people are caring for others. During this uncertain time, your stories are bringing hope, inspiring others to reach out to those in need, and showing the world we are #InThisTogether.


What Good Looks Like During COVID-19

Taking Care of Neighbors in Need
I need to take my 14-year old cat, Miss Hissy, to the vet to see if the new diet she’s been on for the past three months has helped deal with kidney and thyroid issues. The vet is now only allowing “curbside” drop-off of pets – they’ll come out and get them, but won’t allow owners inside. Then they bring the animal out when they’re done. Which is fine if you have a car…since I don’t, I was planning on getting a cab and just having it wait for the time it takes for the exam. ThenI was told that our building’s “neighbor to neighbor” volunteer service had found a volunteer who would drive me down then and wait with me. The coordinator said that when they found out the need, there were several people who stepped up to see what they could do to help. At least that’s one less worry. ~ Boston, MA

Sharing a Smile
I wasn’t wearing a mask while out and about, and I saw another woman not wearing a mask (both of us maintaining social distance). She commented that it was so nice to see a smile! ~ New Milford, CT

Looking for a Silver Lining
Thanks to technology, so many people are working from home now rather than doing the drudge to NYC or Stamford or wherever they might have spent an hour on the road both ways. Hopefully they are finding out what the OLD WAY of life was, to be home with your family and enjoy your home. There’s going to be a huge adjustment, and it’s a very scary time. But maybe in certain ways we will find out HOW to live again, and not just be slaves to making a living. The earth is getting a breath of fresh air, and maybe there will be a way to actually go back to less stressful and better ways of life. Some good always seems to come out of bad. I hope and pray the good eventually surpasses the bad. ~ Camden CT

Giving Away Masks Made With Love
There is a store two towns up that loves everything flannel, and makes a lot of items themselves. They posted on a local Facebook group that if anybody needed masks, to please let them know as they are making them and giving them away free of charge. I asked for two, and a few days later two flannel masks showed up in my mailbox. This happened the day my N-95 mask broke. ~ Salisbury, MA

Uplifting Others With a Message of Hope
Seen on my walk today. ~ Salisbury MA

What Good Looks Like, Part 2: Caring for Others in Uncertain Times

By Erik Olsen, Co-Founder

At Common Ground Committee, one of our objectives is to show what good looks like by hosting public forum events. In the face of a global pandemic, we’ve also been heartened by stories of leaders and everyday citizens who are coming together as a community and showing the world we are #InThisTogether.

Drop us a line with your experiences, stories, and observations, and we’ll share them in our new blog series. During this time of social distancing, your stories of connection bring hope and give us all a greater sense of what good looks like – inspiring others to do likewise.


What Good Looks Like During COVID-19

Running Errands (No Tips Accepted)
One family in our NY apartment building just posted to the building’s website that they’ll pick up groceries or do other errands for anyone who isn’t able or too fearful to go out. The posting notes: “We will NOT accept anything in exchange.” ~ New York, NY

Ensuring No Neighbor Is Left Behind
I manage to go to the store during off hours, so lines haven’t been too bad. Although people are intent on getting the groceries they need, I’ve found them to be very good natured, moving around carts with a smile, recognizing that even though we’re in a stressful situation, there’s no need to add to it by being disagreeable. Walking up and back, the sidewalks are pretty much deserted, so I greet everyone I pass. Our building, which has a large number of elderly residents, is establishing a “neighbor to neighbor” program where we check in on each other regularly to see if help is needed. ~ Boston, MA

Getting Back to Nature, and to Family
Seen yesterday on a beautiful day in Hailey, Idaho – parents and their kids fishing in the Big Wood River. ~ Hailey, ID

Bringing Humanity Into Work Interactions
I am working on a project dealing with the state of Washington (from home and for my job.) Instead of calls being strictly business, we inevitably ask each other how the other is coping, if we are working from home and what challenges we are facing. Strangers encouraging each other since everyone in the world is fighting the same fight. Thanks for doing this Erik. ❤️ ~ Nashville, TN

Finding Strength of Character in Adversity
People say that adversity builds character; I’ve also heard (and I think more accurately) that adversity reveals character. Events like this are the great equalizer, in that our pettiness, fears, and self-absorption are stripped away when we think of how we might help others – not necessarily in grand gestures, but in the millions of small ways that we all can. Going to the grocery store is like going to the communal watering hole – there’s usually a spirit of friendliness and humor that’s not usually there. It reminds me of the post-9/11 world, when cynicism disappeared for a while. It’s interesting to be living through something so unprecedented. ~ Phoenixville, PA

Leveraging Technology to Reach People In Need
We’ve got a FB #314Together group that is helping small b2b keep each other afloat here in St Louis.

I’ve also joined an “Intellihelp” group on FB out of Texas that has gone nationwide to support each other on all levels.

Especially those that #need some help and others that are able to #give. Everything from supplies, to encouragement, to healing support.

We’ve got the technology to do it and our human compassion to make it happen.

We are capable, loving and kind! ~ St. Louis, MO

Caring for Our Community…Online & Offline
We are videotaping YouTube church services and studies and sending them to members. Might try a drive-in service showing. Our care team is cooking dinners twice a week for pick-up or delivery, making grocery /pharmacy runs for those who need to avoid shopping and have a nurse making wellness calls and visits if requested. Also working with the town Supervisor and board to identify the elderly in town so we can deliver meals and do shopping and wellness checks. ~ Dover Plains, NY

Giving to Spread Joy – and Receive It
I am a fan of jigsaw puzzles, and they were stacked and stashed in multiple nooks and crannies in our beach house. I sorted them by size and theme and they are now impeccably organized – PLUS I gave away twenty two of them. I set them out on the seawall with a sign that said “Free Puzzles,” and passersby helped themselves to all but three (and I have since found homes for two of those).

I was very pleased to watch from my deck as people paused to survey the inventory, and many would pick one up and carry it off. Several of them went to my immediate neighbors, but many to total strangers. I received one “Thank You” via the Next Door website which was entitled “To the nice person who gave us a puzzle.”

Looking Forward to Liberation
I went on a canoe trip once when I was at summer camp. The plan was to cross Lake Mooselookmeguntic, one of the Rangeley Lakes in Northwestern Maine, not far from the Canadian Border. There were probably 10 of us aged 12 or so and two counselors. The Rangeley Lakes trip was considered one of the high points of the summer, and every camper chosen for the adventure felt lucky.

We set forth on a bright day from Bemis, Maine, and almost as soon as we had dipped our paddles in the water, a powerful wind began to blow in our faces. After a couple of hours of strenuous effort, we made it to an island maybe a mile from our starting point. The counselors decided we should beach the canoes and set up camp and wait for the wind to die down before venturing further into what was a very large lake. And so we did.

And the wind did not die down, not on the next day and neither did it subside on the day after that. On the third day, the wind also blew. It was as if we had paddled into a Biblical Plague of the Wind.

As 12-year olds, after three days we were pretty much out of ideas for things to do, having denuded at least one good-sized chunk of shoreline of all the rocks that could be thrown into the lake. So the counselors, who were also approaching their wits’ end, decided that we should return to Bemis. And so we did, quite easily in fact with the wind howling at our backs.

We spent a night in a motel, which was a novel addition to the itinerary, and the counselors made an ingenious celebratory dinner with all our leftover provisions. So, having moved to Charlottesville on March 1, just in time to shelter in place here, I’m reminded of my incarceration on Lake Mooselookmeguntic, and of the great liberation that came at the end of that strange journey. ~ Charlottesville, VA

Email us to share your stories of “what good looks like” for our new blog series.

What Good Looks Like, Part 1: Your Stories of Kindness Inspire

By Erik Olsen, Co-Founder

Recently a friend posted on her Facebook page to share the story of how she helped a mother of five buy milk at the grocery store. It was a simple story, but it showed how she was alert to someone’s needs and helped out during this time of deep disruption to our daily routines.

At Common Ground Committee, one of our objectives is to show what good looks like by hosting public forum events. It occurred to me, in reading my friend’s story, that we can all contribute to what good looks like by relating our own experiences, events we observe or stories we hear from others of how people are coming together as a community. During this time of social distancing, sharing the ways we help each other face various challenges offers both hope and a reminder that we are #InThisTogether.

Drop us a line with your experiences, stories, and observations, and we’ll share them in our new blog series. With your help, we can all get a greater sense of what good looks like – and be inspired to do likewise with our friends and neighbors.


What Good Looks Like During COVID-19

Working Together in the Grocery Line
I want to share my amazing experience at our local grocery store today. I live in Tucson. We rarely have more than 3 people in our check out lines. I live about five blocks from our local grocery store. Ryan and I have been taking turns going to the store and adding a couple non-perishable items here and there in each trip.

Today I was third in line. The young mother in front of me chatted with me as we waited for check out. We swapped kiddos stories. I praised her for being stuck at home with five boys. They aged from 18 months old to 13 yrs. old.

When it was her turn to check out, the cashier told her that there was a two gallon limit on milk. She had five gallons in her cart.

I asked the cashier if I could buy two of the gallons and give it to her. The cashier said. “yes.”
The young mother grabbed several of my groceries and paid for them. I’m still not sure what she bought for me. I know that there was a big bottle of Coke and some artichokes.

We exchanged the two gallons of milk that I purchased for her, and the groceries she bought for me. We practiced social distancing, bumped elbows and went on our ways. ~Tucson, AZ

Finding Connection Instead of Stress
I stood in line for an hour the other day – just trying to get to the check out stand at the grocery store – we had a great time, everyone laughing and joking… it was nice to feel connected with my LA people. ~ Los Angeles, CA

Caring for Community Needs
Church officials and members are contacting each other and checking to see how they are and if they need any errands run and/or need anything purchased for them. Grocery stores are making specific senior citizen shopping hours. There is a Facebook group for the city for people to relay where to find specific items to buy, and reaching out to help. Free breakfast and lunch for K-12 children deliveries/pick-up. ~ Springfield, IL

Rallying Around Local Businesses
One of my restaurant clients in Westchester who is in the midst of the mess in NY sent out an email about their take out. I do their website and social media posts, and within 30 minutes she emailed me and told me they had 31 take out orders for tomorrow… and that was at 5:30 last night. I could feel the excitement and hope that maybe people will still try to support these businesses with the take out services. It was a positive moment in the midst of all this fear and worry. ~ Guilford, CT

Reconnecting Around a (Virtual) Dinnertable
Jim and I had dinner at home while Facetiming with our good friends in Connecticut, while they had their dinner. So fun! It was brilliant! 😄👍❤ ~ St. Louis, MO

******

I [Erik] will weigh in on this, since my wife and I are the friends in Connecticut.

Years ago when we were all “young marrieds,” we lived near each other in Southern California and we would get together frequently for dinner, movies, skiing, beach trips, etc. Twenty years ago my family moved to Connecticut, and more recently Sue and Jim moved to St. Louis. We have maintained contact but obviously our interaction has diminished over the years.

My wife and Sue had a phone call the other day and were discussing how social interactions were being curtailed and everyone was homebound. That led to the idea of having a dinner together remotely. We cooked dinner on our end, and they did on their end. We each set up a computer on the dinner table and commenced having dinner together.

The event was just like old times. The conversations started with the women talking about the kids and home life and ended with the husbands talking about business and technology (we are, after all, baby boomers). We now expect to make this a regular event. ~ Wilton, CT

Putting Others First and Finding a Win-Win
Bought a computer today so a coworker is ready if we have to work at home. There was a mom there shopping for the same style computer to teach her young son at home. The store only had two of those computers, and they had slightly different capabilities. We were telling her to pick first and she was telling us to pick first. We eventually each got a computer that worked for our intended purpose.

Spreading Hope By Making Music
Since I am in Milano and its area, where it seems to be hit the hardest, so far, I will share with you what is going on. After the first panic which saw queues of people buying food as if there was no tomorrow, things did calm down. Be aware that we are at the end of the 2nd week of isolation. I live downtown surrounded by gardens and near a new area with modern architecture. I say this because Milano was the first Roman capital. Its name was Mediolanum (in the middle), since its geographical position takes you everywhere in less than 1hr (either air or car).

At the end of last week the atmosphere was horrible. Beyond the deafening silence you wouldn’t see anyone around except those that would walk their dogs during the day. Last Sunday though, in the complex building near our apartment, there is a famous Italian rapper, Fedez and his wife Chiara Ferragni (the first international fashion influencer in the world – Harvard studies her success story, look it up it’s interesting) who rented speakers and mic, opened the windows and around 4 pm started playing few Italian songs famous around the world like Volare etc. At the end even our national anthem. The interesting thing is that many went to their balconies to sing along and shout. Italians are NOT nationalists, but they have become. Well this idea by Fedez broke the spell under which we all felt like ghosts. People showed up on balconies and started singing along, making videos.

Like in the US, the north is always more “British” i.e. contained, silent, formal, so it was a joy to hear people participate and wanting to share life, show up, even sing. Milano is a thriving city, the heartbeat of Italy, a small New York tougher than NY. I actually rephrased Frank Sinatra’s song: if you make it here, you can make it anywhere else. Trust me! Very business, very cold, very closed up. So the scene was amazing, a huge sign of wanting to carry on straight up, and hopefully with even some music in the heart.

It looks like they will keep us in house for another 2 months, because Italians have great talents, but as excellent creatives are disobedient, so for the fault of some we all must pay the price, at least that what seems to be today. But on the other hand, a wave of huge generosity has sprang from everyone, with donations (again this is not customary, the concept of Trust of Foundation was born in UK/USA) from simple employees to billionaires like Giorgio Armani and the not so loved Berlusconi, of course.

I attached a picture of the area where I live, modern and old, not too old :)) 1800s buildings. The skyscraper on the left was designed by Zaha Hadid, and on the right by japanese architect Isosaky and the third which is not in the picture is by Libeskind. I also attached the most recent video I could find of the area fairly updated. I live in the one old house turn of the century near the new ones. ~ Milano, Italy

Email us to share your stories of “what good looks like” for our new blog series.

To stop coronavirus, we must set aside partisanship. Here’s how we can do it.

This USA Today piece by CGC Co-Founders Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen calls for citizens and politicians to stop using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to push partisan politics and cites cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians as an example we can follow. Three of the Common Grounder Attributes are used to show how we can put our differences aside.


– This article was published in USA TODAY on March 20, 2020.

Engaging in tough conversations is worth it. Even if we can’t find agreement.

In this opinion piece Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen co-founders of Common Ground Committee argued that the point of common ground is not to force an agreement on issues – it’s to foster conversations that lead to greater understanding.

They also position CGC as one of many members of the common grounder movement, and a link to the 10 attributes of a common grounder is included.


— This article was published in USA Today on January 23, 2020.

Finding common ground isn’t about ‘being nice’ or losing values. It’s about understanding.

Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen co-founders of Common Ground Committee wrote a letter is in response to the new poll numbers from the Hidden Common Ground initiative.

They write that common ground can be found between Democrats and Republicans but, in order for that to happen, we have to dispel the myth that finding common ground is somehow compromising your values.

The letter also includes mention of the 10 common grounder initiatives and includes a link


As co-founders of an organization focused on the state of our political discourse, we are not surprised by the results of the newly-released USA TODAY/Public Agenda/Ipsos poll published in “America is dangerously divided. USA TODAY and partners launch ‘Hidden Common Ground’ to find solutions.” Common ground can certainly be found between Republicans and Democrats — but first, we need to dispel a common myth.

One of the most consistent critiques we hear is that finding common ground means “being nice” at the expense of one’s values. The real point of common ground is not to force-feed agreement on a particular issue — it’s about a conversation that leads to understanding each other.

Before Thanksgiving, we released the 10 attributes of what we call common grounders. One of those attributes is to listen and learn from personal experiences. This is the essence of the common ground movement. When we brought Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Susan Rice on stage for an event recently, the audience was inspired by just how much they found agreement despite their different backgrounds.

–This article was published in USA Today on December 13, 2019.

Common Ground News Roundup: Fall 2019

Looking for a fresh take on finding common ground? Start with our Fall 2019 news roundup.

From clarion calls to cultivate more informed citizens and encourage a return to tact, to a look at what can happen when we hold intentional conversations, here’s a look at the top five stories from our Fall 2019 reading list.

1. Young Americans demand civic education — for good reason

The Hill – A democracy needs informed citizens if it is to thrive, or ultimately even survive. Read more.

2. Quiet mediators in noisy places

The Christian Science Monitor – From Sudan to Venezuela, honest brokers are bringing a special skill set to ending conflicts. Not all succeed. Yet their quiet force of moral persuasion can be effective. Read more.

3. America Needs to Rediscover Tact

Wall Street Journal – In our politics, holding back and minimizing pain has given way to rubbing people’s noses in defeat. Read more.

4. Searching for common ground? Start with the Constitution

The Christian Science Monitor – Amid widespread Democratic concerns about the country’s direction, former Senate staffer Janet Breslin is reaching out to local Republicans. Part 5 in a summer series on people who are facing – and successfully navigating – America’s most intractable challenges. Read more.

5. Political polarization is about feelings, not facts

The Conversation – Robert B. Talisse argues in his conversation piece that polarization isn’t about where you get your news or how politicians are divided – it’s about how a person’s political identity is wrapped up with almost everything they do. Read more.

“If you want to fix the polarization crisis, use your vote to shift the political climate”

Common Ground Committee co-founder, Bruce Bond, shared his thoughts on how and why we should vote for common ground this election in an op-ed for USA TODAY.

As you research candidates before heading to the polls, look for those with a track record that demonstrates a bias toward making progress on issues, not destroying the other side.


If you want to fix the polarization crisis, use your vote to shift the political climate

Polarization has reached a tipping point. To fix it, start by voting for candidates with a record of bipartisanship, regardless of their party.

The spate of suspicious packages and pipe bombs targeting prominent Democrats and the recent hate crimes have been horrifying. As someone who works full-time on mitigating the increasing polarization that divides our nation, I see intense disagreement every day. This was something else entirely — heartbreaking, appalling and shocking. These attacks and an increase in incendiary rhetoric have further exposed the festering divisions in our country. But they also spurred a bipartisan call for civility.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-AZ, expressed how we need to “tone down the rhetoric. Both sides. We’ve got to see people as opponents, not enemies.” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer tweeted a statement saying, “Despicable acts of violence and harassment are being carried out by radicals across the political spectrum — not just by one side. Regardless of who is responsible, these acts are wrong and must be condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike. Period.”

On Tuesday, I will join Americans in voting for members of both chambers of Congress. In 36 states, my New York included, we are voting for governors as well. Only 38 percent of Americans say the United States is heading in the right direction, and an annual poll tracking discourse shows 93 percent say America has a civility problem. It is evident. The divisive, angry tone of our public discourse is increasingly dangerous and too often perpetuated by those we elect to public office.

Vote for those who will find common ground

Your vote has the power to reverse the deepening abyss of destructive politics if you divert from voting along ideological lines and choose candidates who prioritize making progress on key issues over attacking the opposition. Cast a ballot for those who are not only capable of finding common ground but who also seek opportunities to repeatedly reach across the aisle.

If we don’t vote common ground before party, the pernicious effects of incivility following the midterm elections will only intensify.

To be sure, I am not advocating voting for “nice” people. The best leaders never compromise their fundamental principles. But our country needs leaders who are aware that their default approach needs to be finding common ground, not solely standing their ground. When they do dig their feet in on an issue, good leaders attribute their firm stance to their principles, not flaws in their opponent’s character.

As you research candidates before heading to the polls, look for those with a track record that demonstrates a bias toward making progress on issues, not destroying the other side. Utilize the Lugar Center’s Bipartisan Index and the Allegheny College’s Prize for Civility in Public Life to learn more about politicians known for working civilly with their opponents to find common ground. Ask candidates to describe how they work with members of other parties to move forward on issues you care about — whether that is health care, guns or immigration — then cast your ballot for those you believe will work across party lines to solve those problems. In other words, vote common ground.

Use your vote to shift our political climate from destructive to constructive. Vote for candidates who understand that impactful and long-lasting solutions come only from a wealth of input from voices who bring different experiences and views to the table. Today, our politics are rooted in the mindset that the other’s perspective is, at best, a “check the box” consideration. This approach is unproductive. Just look at how the Senate voted along party lines for the Affordable Care Act and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The minority party vowed to significantly change or repeal these bills once they resumed power. In the case of ACA, they did just that.

We need leaders in office who will stand tall on the two or three issues that matter most to them and their constituents yet prioritize working with others with differing views, not to check a box but because it is necessary to bring lasting change.

Historically, politicians have worked across party lines. President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich found common ground on welfare reform. Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold joined forces in regulating the financing of political campaigns. Though harder to find, it’s happening today, too.

A Democratic gubernatorial candidate in South Dakota chose a Republican as a running mate. Ohio politicians reached across party lines to create the Congressional Civility Caucus so Congress can reach results, not fight. Politicians like Donna Brazile, Michael Steele, John Sununu, and Barney Frank took part in public forums hosted by the Common Ground Committee, an organization I co-founded that inspires action on polarizing issues by bringing prominent leaders with opposing views together to find common ground.

We can still fix polarization

We are not past the point of no return. According to a recent study on polarization, 77 percent of Americans say the differences between us are not so big that we cannot come together. Regardless of your political affiliation, it is crucial to your vote. Vote and help others vote common ground as well.

In a recent heated election, rather than vote for ideology, I decided to vote for the candidate who earned my respect for the strength of character, and in previous positions, demonstrated an ability to work with opponents. Fighting along ideological lines has buried us deep in this political quagmire. Let’s wield the power of our democracy and use our vote to move in a new direction, one that puts the country’s need for common ground and progress before ideology and party.

— This article was published in USA TODAY on November 5, 2018