Alexander Hamilton once wrote: “A share in the sovereignty of the state, which is exercised by the citizens at large, in voting at elections is one of the most important rights of the subject, and in a republic ought to stand foremost in the estimation of the law.”
On Tuesday, November 6, 2012, many Americans will have one thing in common – they will vote. The airways have been filled for the last year with pundits predicting who will be President of this country for the next four years. There has been a lot of debate about polls across this country. One of the major topics has been voter turnout. Who will turn out to exercise their right to vote?
According to Gallup, voter turnout is expected to decline this year compared with four years ago. Only 58% of the voting age population voted in 2008. This is a far cry from the 81.8% voter turnout that was experienced in the controversial election of 1876 between Hayes and Tilden. The last time this nation experienced 60% voter turnout was the 1968 election between Nixon and Humphrey.
I have heard many people say that the reason why voter turnout is so low is because elections are on Tuesday. If the elections were moved to the weekend, the argument is that voter turnout would be much higher. Without getting into this argument that voter turnout would be greater if elections were held on a different day, it is a sad commentary on our country that we have such low voter turnout.
Think about it; in 1876, in order for some people to vote, they would have to travel one day just to get to their polling place. This meant that many individuals were away from their farms or ranches a minimum of two days. If it was as hard to vote today as it was in 1876, a person would have to drive from San Diego to Sacramento in order to cast their vote. Could you imagine how low voter turnout would be today if everyone who voted in California could only vote in Sacramento?
Today it is much easier to vote than it was 136 years ago. Today our polls are open 13 hours (7:00 am – 8:00 pm). Neighborhoods have been divided up into precincts and you can now vote at a location very close to your home (Find your polling place – Contra Costa or Alameda). For those who find it too difficult to vote at their local precinct, here in California, we also have the ability to vote by mail.
This Tuesday, we must vote. We must vote; but before we do, we need to carefully examine the candidates and issues that are before us. We have very important decisions that will affect our future. Before we vote, we need to remember the words of John Adams about the importance of our vote:
“We electors have an important constitutional power placed in our hands; we have a check upon two branches of the legislature … the power I mean of electing at stated periods [each] branch … It becomes necessary to every [citizen] then, to be in some degree a statesman, and to examine and judge for himself of the tendency of political principles and measures. Let us examine, then, with a sober, a manly … and a Christian spirit; let us neglect all party [loyalty] and advert to facts; let us believe no man to be infallible or impeccable in government any more than in religion; take no man’s word against evidence, nor implicitly adopt the sentiments of others who may be deceived themselves, or may be interested in deceiving us.”