Monday, September 29, 2014
IT'S YOUR GOVERNMENT!
Weekly Opinion Editorial
IT’S YOUR GOVERNMENT!
by Steve Fair
In a recent study by the Pew Institute, they found that only 76.9% of Oklahomans eligible to vote are registered-one of the lowest rates in the U.S. In 2012, Pew found that one in eight active registrations across the country are invalid or inaccurate. If you don’t believe that, ask a candidate who is running for office. The frustration of the accuracy of voter lists is universal. Many people who register move and don’t update their registration.
A recent editorial in The Oklahoman challenged readers to be informed voters. They wrote, “Those who don’t vote don’t have a voice in politics. We hope more Oklahomans reject self-imposed irrelevancy and instead embrace active citizenship by becoming informed voters.” Good admonition, but let’s examine why people do not register to vote? Here are five primary reasons:
First, because they believe their vote doesn’t make a difference. In most people’s mind, one vote can’t make that much of a difference in an election. In most cases they are right, but in modern history, just one vote per precinct separated Kennedy and Nixon in the election of 1960. In the 2000 presidential election, the margin of victory by George W. Bush over Al Gore was less than one vote per precinct in Florida. In 1800, just one vote made Thomas Jefferson president instead of Aaron Burr. One vote made Hitler the leader of the Nazi Party. One vote admitted Texas, California and Oregon into the United States. One vote does matter.
Second, U.S. citizens have a responsibility to participate in their government. It’s not just your right to participate in your government- it’s your responsibility. We can’t have government by the people if the people don’t participate. When you consider that just 75% of those who can register to vote are registered and only 65% of those 75 ever show up, that means less than 50% of the citizens in Oklahoma are making decisions for the 100%. In municipal and school district elections, the percentage of participation drops to less than 15% of the total population. That is deployable! American citizens should take their responsibility seriously. FDR said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”
Third, people opt out of politics because the candidates and the process are corrupt. Yep, it’s true- politics is corrupt, but so is business, civic clubs, churches and every other part of society. It is true elected officials are not perfect. They are just like all of us- born with a fallen nature. When someone says they can’t bring themselves to vote for the ‘lesser of two evils,’ they must remember that until Jesus Christ is on the ballot we are always voting for the lesser of two evils. The primary reason politics has become corrupt and there is so much money in the process is because of the apathy of the average citizen. Get informed and stay informed.
Fourth, they are too busy to vote. That may have been a valid excuse in years past when you could only cast your vote on Tuesday, but Oklahoma has early voting. You can vote in-person absentee at the local county courthouse the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before the Tuesday election. You can also vote by absentee ballot. It’s easier than ever to let your voice be heard.
Fifth, they have no interest in politics. If you buy gasoline, turn on your lights, use your cell phone, drive on the streets, go to school, pay taxes, you should be interested in politics. The rate of with holdings from your paycheck and the amount of tax accessed to that gallon of gasoline is determined by people elected by the people. Elected officials make decisions that touch your life every day and to opt out because you don’t have an interest just gives those who do pay attention more power and influence in the political process. Pay attention- it’s your money.
It is just a month from the November 4th election. The last day to register to vote is Friday October 10th. You can go to the state election board website at http://www.ok.gov/elections/ or pick up a form at the library, post office or tag agency.
John Quincy Adams said, “always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”