Primary Excuses

Chad W. Lutz
It's May. The sun is shining. The temperatures are rising. Backyard barbeques are only a couple of weeks away. Already people are thinking about summer vacations, weekend getaways, and nights out in the summer evening cool. What aren't on the minds of most people living in the United States are primary elections in presidential or gubernatorial off-years. In those often forgotten polls that wade between the years in which we select our state governors and chief executive officers, legislators are appointed that shape and affect the future of our country. But a growing trend in the United States appears to be casual political interest and what results is misrepresentation by our appointed officials.

In March 2012, a year in which the seat for President of the United States was actually up for grabs, Ohioans registered a meager 25.52% voter turnout, according to the Office of the Ohio Secretary of State, John Husted. In the last 28 years, total Ohio voter turnout has only exceeded 40% of the registered populous during even-yeared primary elections once (46.04% in 2002). Personally working a precinct as a registered poll worker in March of 2012, our efforts only showed 14% of registered voters actually cast ballots in our corresponding ward. 14% in a ward that featured over 3,000 people eligible to participate.

The U.S. Census Bureau, in an effort to shed light on the psychology of the average voter, regularly polls voters and makes the resulting data available to both researchers and the general public. In 2008, one survey taken asked registered voters for personal reasons as to why they don't partake in election proceedings. Roughly 13% said they were disinterested in politics altogether, while other reasons that stood out included personal injury or illness, being "too busy", or didn't like the candidates on the ballot.

The United States of America currently boasts over 200 million people eligible for voter registration. Of the 200 million-plus eligible, around 150 million are actually registered to vote, and data only shows a peak of 64% voter turnout, which happened nearly twenty years ago during the 1996 Presidential Election. The Ohio primary featuring candidates vying for the Republican Party nomination in 2012 held the promise of 7,772,180 potential votes. Only 1,970,753 cast ballots. The low watermark for voter turnout in an Ohio primary in a gubernatorial or presidential electoral year occurred in 2002, with votes tallied only representing 19.4% of the registered populous.

Opinion matters at every level of government. Whether it takes the form of constituent beliefs, personal ethos, or representation of cities, counties, states or the entire country, political ideology begins and ends with the electorate. Those voted into local or municipal seats may not have as much say as maybe a nationally appointed congressperson or the President of the United States, but the people who filter through the low-totem positions today are the top-ranking officials of tomorrow, and along with them lie the future legislative plans that will mold our communities as well as our country, for years to come.

Voting isn't really all that fun on the grand scheme of things; I get it. No one likes having to take time out of their busy schedules to stand in line for what feels like ever as the person two spots in front of you digs through a wallet disregarded by time and the owner or a purse deeper than the continental drift for the license they ultimately left at home anyway. It's tedious and imposing. It's time consuming and confusing. But really, any reasons you can come up with not to vote, short of life-threatening circumstances are just excuses. Being part of a democracy, whether you like it or not, requires active participation in order for it to work. While no political system is infallible, everyone doing their parts makes the process move forward a little smoother, especially when voters have to oust politicians in response to detrimental behavior or ideologies so loony they'd even make Daffy Duck say, "Whoa, let's calm down and think about this for a moment, guys."
This duck couldn't give a f^#% about voting.
No matter how you slice it, we're failing as a population in terms of upholding our end of the bargain. At the same time, respect is due to individuals who exercise their freedoms expression by not voting to send messages of displeasure with the way the current system operates. That's all good and well, and I encourage that, if that's truly your rationale for leaving poll workers like me sitting at the polling place with my face in my hands for 14 straight hours. But data suggests otherwise, and it seems more and more people are just making excuses for not voting and then wonder where This Piece of Legislation or That Piece of Legislation came from or how bonkers political ideologies slipped through the cracks. Don't allow personal frustrations over the voting process detour you from casting a vote. Contact the State Attorney General's Office or your local county board of elections for information on candidates, registration restrictions and requirements, and polling place locations. You wouldn't sign up for internet service without researching at the very minimum the price and the amenities you'd receive, so why not spend time researching what will ultimately shape our futures? Instead of, yeah know, not caring and staying home to play with your cat or making playing-card houses.

The answer is simple: vote, and don't make excuses.

No sympathy for your Tuesday Night TV Lineups…

For more details on Ohio voter registration click here.
Or, click here for a county-by-county listing of board of elections contacts for information on upcoming issues, candidates, and the overall voting process.

And don't forget to vote in the upcoming primary Tuesday, May 6, 2014!