By Kathi Bliss
It’s safe to call the political climate in these parts “contentious” these days. In fact, you can’t really throw a rock without hitting someone who is expressing a very strong opinion about something on the political front – whether that’s the local, statewide or national political scene. In the din of those strong opinions, something always seems to get lost, though.
People remember all about their right to complain about their leadership. But they seem to forget that along with the right to complain comes the responsibility to do something.
As hot a topic as this election is, one would expect to see a record voter turnout, when the votes are finally tallied on Nov. 6.
I wonder, though, if that “record turnout” will be something that we, as a community, can be proud of.
After all, Caldwell County had a record voter turnout during the last Presidential election – some 11,800 voters.
The “record turnout” that year, though, was a paltry 40 percent of our registered voters. Yet somehow, we were all proud of that number.
We shouldn’t have been. A 40 percent voter turnout is shameful.
Anything less than a 100 percent voter turnout suggests that we have people in our community who don’t care about our leadership – and that’s the wrong message to send to the people that we hire to represent us.
In my entire life, I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t have some kind of an opinion on leadership, the direction our community or our nation is taking, or the people that represent us. Not one. I have never engaged in a conversation with someone who says, “Nah. I really just don’t care.”
But I’ve met plenty of people who really just don’t vote. And as long as I live, I will never, never understand that.
The right to vote is the cornerstone of our freedom. Moreso than the right to practice the religion that we choose, or the right to assemble, carry our guns or say what we like about our elected officials, the right to vote is what makes American’s the most special. It is that right to not only voice our opinions, but to give that voice “legs” that has made this nation great.
How many times over the course of any given day do you hear the phrase, “I can do that, because it’s a free country?”
How many times is someone claiming that right over something really sort of trivial?
How many times do you hear someone screaming at the wind about an elected official? Or talking about how much they hate the direction the nation is taking? Or complaining about their taxes?
When you hear those statements, do you ever stop and wonder, “hey, I wonder if this guy or gal doing the complaining votes?”
I wonder all the time… but that may be based on the fact that I watch election returns every year, and I see how truly shameful our voter turnout really is.
If you want to have your rights, if you’re disappointed in the actions of your elected officials, then why on earth wouldn’t you vote? Why would more than half of our community allow someone else to decide who is in control of their destiny?
I hear all sorts of excuses:
“I don’t have time to go vote.”
“The line was too long.”
“My vote doesn’t matter, anyway.”
“All politicians are the same, and I don’t like any of them.”
Stop with the excuses. If you don’t vote, just be honest and say, “I didn’t vote because I don’t care.”
No one can really say that with a straight face, because at some level, EVERYONE cares. Don’t they?
Everyone sure seems to. Everyone seems to have an opinion they want to express. So instead of expressing that opinion at the water cooler, where nothing can be done, why not express that opinion at the polls, where something CAN be done about it?
As of Wednesday morning, it looks as though Caldwell County does in fact care. More than 1,100 early votes had been cast, according to the Elections Office records, as of the close of business on Tuesday. Honestly, given our history, that’s an impressive number. So let’s keep it up.
Currently, Caldwell County has around 20,700 registered voters. That’s 20,700 individual voices, each of whom has just as much right as the next guy to decide where our schools, our county government, our State and our Nation is going.
Each one of those 20,700 folks also has as much of a responsibility as the next guy to take part in the conversation.
I hope we see another record voter turnout this year; we’re at a point in time where there are important issues to address, important questions to ask, and important decisions to be made. I hope we all step up to the plate and play our part in those decisions.
There’s only one way to do that. Get out there and vote.
Early voting in Caldwell County will continue until Nov. 2, 2012. In Lockhart, voters may cast their ballots at the Caldwell County Elections Office in the Scott Annex, 1403 Blackjack St. (FM 20E) from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday until Oct. 26. Polls will be open Saturday, Oct. 27 from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 28 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Polls will also be open Monday – Friday, Oct. 29 – Nov. 2, from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.