It was one of those casual conversations on the way to work. I did not know the young woman sitting beside me on the “el,” but we got into a conversation about the upcoming election. We agreed that we were tired of the negative thrust of the campaign and that campaign ads should be about issues instead of attacks on opponents. When I made a comment about voting, she responded, “Oh, I probably won’t vote this year. I voted for president in 2008, but this election just doesn’t seem as important.”
Unfortunately, many people agree with her. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a total of 131,144 million people voted in the 2008 presidential election, but in the 2006 midterm election leading up to it, only 96,100 million people voted. While 125,736 million voters cast ballots in 2004, another presidential election, the total number of individuals voting in the 2002 midterm election was lower—88,903 million. The same pattern emerges when voter turnout records for the 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2002 general elections are reviewed. Turnout was significantly higher in the presidential elections of 1996 and 2000 than in the midterm elections of 1998 and 2002.
If this trend continues, we can expect a lower voter turnout this year than we had in 2008.
“Every election is important,” I told my traveling companion that morning on the train. “I hope you will change your mind and vote on November 2nd.”
I hope that you will too! And, I hope that you will urge others to vote. Please don’t assume that all your family, friends, and business associates are planning to vote. Some of them aren’t—it’s a midterm, after all—so your encouragement could be just the nudge that they need. Make an announcement at your church. Talk to members of your book club. Send an e-mail to your friends.
Then, think about people who may need a little extra help with voting: the older adult who could use a ride, the parent who would welcome some help with the children, the new citizen who will be voting for the first time, the person who seems uncertain about using the new “touch” machines. Do what you can to help them “get to the polls.”
Voting is one of the hallmarks of our U.S. democracy. It is also a choice. As citizens, we are not required to vote, but voting is one of the ways that we speak in the political process. When fewer people choose to speak, i.e., vote, our voices are needed all the more. This election is too important to let others make the decisions about who will represent us for the next two, four, or six years. Use your voice—and vote!
Information for Voting: Thursday, October 28th is the last day for early voting, absentee ballots must be postmarked by Monday, November 1st, and the polls are open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 2nd.