Excuses for not voting should be rebuffed

Published 6:50 pm Wednesday, May 22, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

Cue the broken record: Kentuckians need to do a better job voting.

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Just fewer than one in five registered voters actually cast a vote in Tuesday’s primary election.

Looking at the state Board of Elections map of county-by-county voter turnout is just depressing: the commonwealth is dark red almost all over, signaling turnout between 10 and 20 percent. You can count the counties with more than 30-percent turnout on one hand.

Here in Boyle County, we did slightly better than the state, with 21.85-percent turnout. We’re not at the bottom of the barrel, but it’s hardly anything to brag about.

Franklin County had just over 40 percent of voters vote, as did Elliott County, according to the state board of elections. Rowan, Nicholas and Woodford all managed to top 30 percent.

So there are counties out there voting better than Boyle. That means we’re not doomed to always have to one in five voters show up in off-year elections and three in five show up for presidential elections. It is possible to do better.

How could we do it? We think it comes down to creating a culture change.

We have to stop listening to the voices that tell us our government is permanently broken and start believing government can do good if we bother to put in some effort.

We have to end the vicious cycle perpetuated by low voter turnout: When we don’t show up at the polls, we don’t get to pick our elected officials. When we don’t pick them, we wind up with unpopular leaders who do things very few people want. Then many people don’t bother to show up for the next election because they’re so turned off by their government.

This cycle is not our destiny. It may feel inescapable at times, when year after year turnout in Kentucky and the nation lags way behind where it should be. It may seem like the problem is too complex to be solved.

But it’s really not all that complicated. If people show up to vote, good candidates who people actually like will gain better chances against polarizing candidates who only play to their bases. As more good candidates get elected, they will help make decisions based on what’s good for people, not for their pocketbooks or re-election chances. The public will appreciate that, and positive feelings about our government will induce greater and greater voter turnout.

You can be part of the solution by voting — that’s obvious enough. You can also be part of the solution by calling out anti-voting rubbish when you hear it. When someone says they don’t bother to vote because their vote won’t change anything, or that they’re too busy, or that all the politicians are the same, tell them point-blank they’re wrong.

Tell them if more people bothered to vote, the people’s voice becomes stronger and their vote would mean more. Tell them by not voting, they’re actually voting in favor of a system that chooses unpopular candidates and unresponsive government. Tell them if they can find time to eat lunch seven days a week, they can find time to vote twice a year.

If even a small number of people began taking public stands against voter apathy wherever they encounter it, the ripple effects could be impressive.