So I want to talk about something far more disturbing. Voter participation. It is appalling. Now, I have been voting in elections - ALL elections - since 1984 when I turned 18. When I say all, I mean all. I have voted in elections where the only thing on the ballot is a school bond issue. I have voted since the days where I had to go to a polling place (a local elementary school, usually) and wait in line. I have voted in presidential elections since the days when the networks - all 3 of them - declared the winner long before the polls in Washington State ever closed.
So, I am suitably appalled at my fellow Benton County residents. According to bentonelections.com, out of the 99,283 ballots issued, 37,413 were returned. That means 37.5% of registered voters decided the future of Benton County. If this had been a school bond election, it wouldn't even be valid as 60% of the registered voters have to actually vote in those.
Our county has a population of 182,398 (as of 2012) - are you comfortable with the fact that 37,413 people have decided your future? In fact, it is probably not even an evenly distributed 37,413 that voted. Studies have shown (nationwide) that the majority of those voting in midterm elections are old and white. Do you think they will be voting in your best interests?
Why don't you vote? I have heard over the years a few excuses:
#1 My vote doesn't count
Well, first of all, that's not the point. The point is to vote. Do the Afghanis worry about that? No - they risk their lives to cast their ballot and proudly show their inked finger to prove they have. Ar you proud to be an American? Do you celebrate Independence Day? If you say yes to those questions and don't vote - you've missed the point entirely.
Second of all, the one thing we learned from the Bush v Gore election is your vote DOES count.
#2 They're all the same
Really? Do you truly believe that? If they were all the same, why can't they agree on anything? One believes corporations are people, the other does not. One believes in separation of church and state, the other believes in the preservation of religious liberty. One believes in a social safety net, the other believes in protecting businesses.
These are just a few differences. What are the issues you care about? What makes your blood boil? Ask yourself, which candidate will protect and fight for your values?
#3 It's inconvenient
Oh, please. Washington State is 100% vote-by-mail. It is also one of the easiest states to register to vote in. Watching, listening, and reading the news, I am very grateful to live in this state. I don't live in a state that is establishing Voter ID legislation and restricting the right to vote. I don't have to live in a state where I continually have to re-register to vote. (I registered at my local library in 198 and have only had to make address changes since.)
#3 I only vote in presidential elections
I want to address this point. In my (humble) opinion, the President has very little impact in my life. (Except, perhaps, when he interrupts my favorite television program for an important message.) Think about it, which political or government figures have direct impact on your life?
Judges, sheriffs, city and county council members, these officials have a huge impact on your lives. Property taxes, use of public lands, law and justice, these are issues that are a daily influence in your life!
Also, since most functions of government are carried out by the state government - and the US Supreme Court is frequently re-emphasizing this - the state elections are very important.
Even your Congressman has more impact on your life than the President. The President is answerable to all Americans as his (or her) constituency. Your Congressman (or woman) is answerable to his State's citizens (if a Senator) or his Congressional District (if a Representative).
We need to vote. It is out duty, our responsibility, and our privilege. It is also in our best interest to vote. If only 30% of the registered voters actually vote, doesn't that make their votes worth three times as much as they would in an election where everyone voted?
A final thought... we always talk about how our fighting men and women are fighting for our way of life, that they are fighting for democracy. Does that mean that they are dying, they are being maimed, they are suffering from PTSD, so that you can NOT participate in the democracy they fought for?