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The importance of voting

Posted: June 13, 2014 12:10 p.m.
Updated: June 16, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Over the last fifteen years, each of my five children, at one time or another has pleaded his or her case before (mom) court as to why he or she should accompany me to the voting booth that particular day. And why not? To the four year-old, it was an outing to unknown territory, always a diverting option in the midst of a cold, mundane November day. To the often-awkward middle-schoolers or the "tweeners", it was a chance for them to be seen - and heard, as they proceeded to inform me they know exactly whom I need to vote for, as this had been their lesson that day in social studies. Then there’s the "I know everything" high-schooler, who was usually way too cool to be seen anywhere with a parent let alone a polling place, unless the excursion involved a fast-food detour of sorts afterwards. Some may perceive the voting booth to be the last place they would want to take a restless child. For me, it was a fond and valuable memory and the perfect chance to pass on to mine what had been entrusted to me many years prior.

Growing up, it was my father who toted us with him as he cast his vote and many times over. My mother never voted in the United States. I imagine she did in Canada before moving here. She didn’t vote in this country due to the fact she was not an American citizen. She did not have that constitutional right as a citizen of the United Sates. "The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of age." So as history will tell, my father took it upon himself to instill in us the utmost importance of our right to vote and trust me, he went to extreme measures if he saw us displaying any disinterest when it came to voting in any election – presidential, mid-term, party primaries, runoffs, and so on. From presidential races to the passing of bond referendums. It didn’t matter. All were worthy of our unswerving attention. Passiveness was not an option. And by extreme measures I am referring to annoying phone calls – and yes, from a landline – over and over until he was convinced we would make it the polls by 7 p.m. And the tested and proved sticky note became his ally. There were no excuses in misusing this right. None. Nil. Zero.

This brings us to what has bothered many for a while – apathetic voters or as some like to say – voter apathy. In politics, voter apathy is defined as perceived apathy (lack of caring) among voters in an election. And history holds the numbers. Some will describe this apathy as a "modern disease". It was common in the late nineteenth century for more than seventy percent of the voting age population in the United States to cast a ballot. The last time voter turnout exceeded sixty percent in the U.S. was in the 1960 contest between Kennedy and Nixon when it was at sixty-three percent. The highest voter participation since 1960 was in 2008 at fifty-seven percent when Obama and McCain vied for the White House – less than sixty percent of voting-eligible Americans chose to vote. In the 2012 Presidential Primary less than twenty-three percent of Kershaw County registered voters cast their ballot.

A sign of voter apathy can be in the indifference of voters to civics. It is up to us to create an informed citizenry for our children and ourselves. Every time we are asked to exercise our right to vote is relevant, whether it’s a general or primary election. Voting is not glamorous but the excuses for not voting like lack of time, not being educated on the candidates, the weather, the belief that an individual’s vote doesn’t matter are exactly what they are – excuses. We have to remember when we fail to vote, we must understand that our non-participation in an election will not exempt us from the policies and decisions of our government; that our lack of involvement does not shield us from the impact of those decisions.

It’s never too late. EVERY vote counts, every vote matters. Non-registered voters can still register for the November elections. Contact Kershaw County Voter Registration at (803)424-4016 or go online at www.kershaw.sc.gov.

Our one vote does count…

 

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