We Americans do a lousy job of matching our actions to what comes out of our mouths. We complain about our political leaders but resist going the polls to vote them out of office. American voters rank 14th among developed countries in our voting percentage, according to the respected nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Fourteenth in the world. Are you proud of that? Belgium has the best record (who knew?), at nearly 90 percent, followed by South Korea, Australia, the Netherlands, Israel, Finland, France and Mexico. The United Kingdom and Canada come next, then Portugal, Czech Republic, and Ireland, before we get to the United States, whose average voter turnout is about 60 percent of the eligible voter population. Six out of 10 bother to cast their votes, and that’s in a presidential election year, when interest is higher, one supposes.
This is a disgrace.
Why won’t we vote? Ever since I was old enough to vote, I have wondered why so many of us don’t bother to vote, when it is so very important. This is not a recent phenomenon. Turnout is better when we choose a president, but turnout for midterm elections, such as the one we will have this November, is shameful. In 2014, Time magazine lamented a voter turnout of a dismal 36 percent of eligible voters in midterm elections. “The last time voter turnout for a national election was as low as it was on Nov. 4, Hitler was still in power, and Mitch McConnell was only nine months old,” the Time article pointed out.
Where we live, signs cropping up at busy intersections alert us to a Primary election scheduled on May 8. We get to choose our party’s candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, County Commission, Clerk of Superior Court, and Sheriff. That’s it, a short ballot. If my neighbors behave true to form, they will stay home in droves, but if they don’t see this vote as important, it’s hard to imagine what will grab their attention.
To help prepare myself for this election, I went online to download a sample ballot and visited the web sites of the candidates. The entire exercise took me only a few minutes. Very little effort. Now I feel ready to vote intelligently.
If you aren’t frustrated by the mess our elected officials have created for our country and for us, you’re asleep. Perchance to dream. While you’re at it, dream of a country where you can actually do something about failed leadership, by voting the perpetrators out of office and replacing them with talented, honest leaders.
Thousands of teenagers, who have had it up to here with failed leaders, promise to fill the voting booths just as soon as they become eligible. I believe them. These young grownups are serious, and they are trying their best to lead us, if only we have the sense to get off our butts and vote with them. I’m with them. Are you?