I’ve always said that if elections were conducted at a certain store with a one-word name starting with a “W,” the turnout of eligible voters probably would be at or near 100 percent.
But as we all know, this is certainly not the case. That’s true even for major elections that include a presidential race, such as this year.
A lot of factors are blamed: voter apathy, people not liking the candidates who are running, citizens believing the government is so irreversibly corrupt that their vote won’t make a difference, blah-blah-blah. I would argue that laziness/ignorance are as much to blame as anything.
When the nation last made its choice for Head Dude, in 2012, the turnout was only 55 percent. If you go back to a time similar to the 2016 presidential election — in 2000 (Bush v. Gore) with no sitting president involved, only 51 percent of the voting age population bothered to get off their duffs and go vote.
In hindsight, had more people seen fit to participate in that important election, America might have avoided the disastrous invasion of Iraq and other foreign-policy blunders that have resulted in unnecessary deaths and destruction and many of the problems we face today in the Middle East.
(Al Gore might have opened up Pandora’s Boxes of his own, but the truth is we’ll never know.)
For our local municipal and county elections, involving candidates who proportionately will affect our daily lives more than the chief executive (short of that person’s ability to declare war on Norway), turnout tends to be even more dismal.
At this time last year, Mount Airy was embroiled in one of the most hotly contested municipal elections in its history, which ended up producing a turnout far greater than anyone could remember. Yet it amounted to only 23 percent, meaning another 77 percent didn’t participate despite all the Rock the Vote campaigning to engage Millennials, etc.
It bothers me, and should bother everyone else, that the general public, bless its heart, somehow can always find a way to get to the store to buy cigarettes, beer, lottery tickets and other “necessities,” but can’t see fit to spend five minutes at a polling place.
And I certainly don’t see much hope for the human race until people exhibit the same fervor for the democratic process as they do for rushing to that “W” store.
Surely, this year’s election should generate more activity in this regard, what with all the emotion surrounding presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
All emotion aside, 2016 is a defining year for the United States which will set a pace for what happens for a long time to come with such issues as Supreme Court nominations, illegal immigration and others.
If people don’t see a need to cast ballots in this high-stakes election, I don’t know what will get them interested.
Despite the many flaws of our government and so-called democratic system, voting should be like taking a bath or changing the oil in our vehicles. It might not be something we want to do at a particular time, but needs to be done all the same.
The Surry County Board of Elections definitely is doing its part by making the voting process as easy as possible.
This includes the start of early voting this week in Dobson, which will expand to Mount Airy and other municipalities in Surry on Oct. 31.
Even if someone isn’t registered to vote — that’s covered, due to a provision in the no-excuse, one-stop early voting program which allows him or her to register and cast a ballot during the same visit to one of those locations.
There is also an absentee-by-mail program that doesn’t even require voters to leave their homes at all, except for walking back and forth to the postal box, where they can request a ballot to be sent to them.
And if someone has trouble getting out of a car, no problem — curbside voting is available, whereby a poll worker will physically carry a ballot to the vehicle.
I think with voting, and pretty much anything in life, the most people can ask for in various situations is to have someone meet them halfway, whether it be business, romantic or other endeavors.
Well, I think our elections officials are holding up their end, and it’s up to us to exercise our right to vote whether we like the candidates or not. At least have the decency to write in someone else.
For those who vote regularly, I realize I’m preaching to the choir today. My message is for those others who don’t — and you know who you are!
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.