Today is Election Day. Unless you are living in a cave, or your name is Charlie Sheen, you probably knew that already. The candidate commercials have been endless and fierce, the mailers are piled high on the table, and press coverage of this critical and close midterm election has been relentless.
Cutting through the noise to think about the issues and choose candidates carefully has never been more difficult. Add to the now 24-7 political/media circus an economy that is sputtering in low-gear, plus 9.2% unemployment and you see why the American electorate seems to be teetering between stark-raving mad and disillusioned.
But today the noise ends and the civil act of a single person casting a single vote is what rings loudest.
That is, of course, if you vote.
There is nothing more frustrating to me about our citizenry than the fact that almost half of our eligible voting-age population does not vote. In 2008, according to the Federal Election Commission, only 56.8% of those eligible to vote actually did so. That was a presidential election year with "record" turnout.
In midterm elections, like today, it is much worse. Only 37.1% of the electorate voted in the 2006 midterm election; 37% voted in 2002. The last midterm election to break 40% voter turnout was 1970!
There are countless reasons why this is. From apathy to actual disenfranchisement, the causes of low turnout are well-studied, but we have made little-to-no improvement over the last 40 years. There are economic, societal, cultural, educational, gender and racial breakdowns as to who votes more often than not. There is the argument you often here that "my vote just does not matter" in districts where one party holds a clear majority. And, sadly, there is a large percentage of Americans who are simply divorced from civic life.
But there are also signs of positive change embedded in our new social media tools and modern-day networked lifestyle. I can literally see which of my friends voted on Facebook this morning. Campaigns continue to perfect the art of massive voter contact and turnout operations. Time will only tell if these new tools and means of communications help to foster a more robust voter base and civic life.
But back to today. Instead of a discussion about all the reasons why you cannot or do not want to vote, I have something different to offer. It does not matter if you are a Republican or Democrat. You may be wearing a tri-corner hat made of tin-foil, or you may be fighting for LGBT rights. You may be mad as hell, you may be unemployed or you may be a staunch defender of the President. You may be concerned only about your taxes or foreign oil or terrorism. But none of that matters if you do not vote.
So I offer you the same 5,787 reasons why I voted this morning.
5,787 is the number of American servicemen and women who, up until today, have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is 5,787 Americans who did not vote because they gave their lives so you could.
Put your apathy and excuses away and cast a ballot. Honor their memory and pay them the ultimate tribute you, as a citizen, can--VOTE.