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If you don’t vote, don’t complain

There’s gloomy news from the Harrison Circuit Court Clerk’s office, friends. Clerk Carole Gaither reports that, judging by the number of absentee ballots already cast, the turn-out in next Tuesday’s Primary Election will be ‘very, very small.’ In the last Primary Election two years ago, about 800 absentee ballots were cast. By last Friday, a little more than 200 absentee ballots had been cast, and time was running out. Absentee voters have only this week and until Monday at noon to vote.
These kinds of figures don’t bode well for our representative democracy.
In the last general election, only 37 percent of Harrison County’s 35,000 or so registered voters bothered to vote, and Harrison County had one of the best turn-outs in the state!
That is a sad state of affairs. You wonder what George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, John Adams, James Madison and the other Founding Fathers would say if they knew that 225 years after they accomplished the unthinkable by defeating the British Army, separating from England and establishing this country, that most Americans don’t bother to vote. They would be appalled. Stunned. Depressed.
It’s interesting: you hear on the nightly news how President Bush maintains that the war in Iraq is somehow a defense of freedom. Hundreds of American soldiers have died or been injured ‘in defense of freedom’ in Iraq and in other wars, and yet most Americans don’t even bother to vote and express their confidence ‘ or lack of it ‘ in the government that ensures our basic rights and freedoms.
On the other hand, we do live in a free country. We don’t have to vote. No one can make us vote. Most of us have never lived in a country like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Revolutionary Iran, Mubarak’s Egypt, Khadafi’s Libya or Communist Russia where you got to vote, all right, for one person or suffer the consequences. We’re lucky, we’ve never known that kind of intimidation and fear applied by ruthless government leaders.
But, what the heck, we’ll let someone else determine our leaders next week, and then we’ll complain forever about our leaders. It’s trite to say, but if you don’t vote, don’t complain about your government. You’re getting what you deserve.
The dangerous thing is that if you don’t vote, if the majority of registered voters don’t bother to go to the polls, then the minority rules, and that’s really strange in a representative democracy.
There are many good reasons to vote in Tuesday’s primary. Many key decisions are made by one vote. Presidents have been elected by one vote in the Electoral College. States have been admitted to the union by one vote. There are important school board elections in the North Harrison and Lanesville districts. Republicans will select their gubernatorial candidate. Democrats will select candidates for commissioner and county council and President of the United States (we think John Kerry has this one locked up).
Thirty-seven percent. We can do better than that.