The bedrock of American democracy is equal representation in government. And the American way of ensuring that we as citizens are represented is to vote.
Voting is the great equalizer: Every vote counts the same, and therefore every vote matters. Which is why voting is the most common form of political activism in America, although many of us neglect to vote even if we are registered. Some do not vote because they don’t trust the candidates. Other excuses for not voting are that it is raining, or the lines at the polls are too long. I am sure you have heard these before.
Presidential election years like this one are a little different, however. Elections for control of the White House almost always draw twice the number of voters who cast votes in midterm elections, or those elections held in the middle of a sitting President’s term. The same is true of elections for the highest office in most countries.
But other races on the Presidential election ballot this Tuesday, Nov. 8 are important, too. The balance of power in Congress and the Kentucky General Assembly for the next several years will come down to a handful of races that will be decided that day. Some of these so-called “down ballot” races are highly competitive and some are even considered toss-ups, which means the candidates have a 50/50 chance of winning.
This election will impact what policies and programs are approved at the federal and the state legislative and executive levels, who sits on the U.S. Supreme Court, our standing among nations and, indeed the safety and security of ourselves and our children. It is a critical year for us all.
Luckily, for Kentucky, citizens here are registering to vote in record numbers so they can be part of this pivotal moment in our history. The Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office reports that Kentucky now has 3.3 million voters—a new voter registration record in the Commonwealth. This does not mean that voter turnout will be high. That depends on how many of us on the voter rolls get out and exercise their right. But many say high voter turnout is likely—and there are some concrete reasons why.
The number one reason voter turnout may be heavy on Nov. 8 is because those who vote know they are more likely to have their needs met if they vote. When an election is over and the demographics are counted, researchers look at who voted and who did not. Did you know that segments of the population with strong voter turnout, such as the elderly, have a lot of influence in Congress and Frankfort? Likewise, those population groups with low voter turnout are less likely to hold sway.
The National League of Women Voters reported in its “America Votes” report in the late 2000s that because “young people and new U.S. citizens have not voted in high numbers in recent elections, … some politicians feel they don’t have to pay too much attention to their needs.” That’s a sobering fact.
To those individuals who say, “My vote doesn’t count” I say the only vote that doesn’t count is the vote that is not cast. We can do a lot when we vote in large numbers. After all, a penny is not worth much these days, but a million pennies make a tidy sum!
I served in the U.S. Army from 1974 to 1977. My son served in the U.S. Navy from 1999 to 2008. In fact, he is still in the Reserves. Thousands of soldiers, airman, Marines, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen have made these sacrifices to ensure that our Nation remains free and protected. I urge you be sure and vote because I do not want these sacrifices to be in vain.
Remember, your vote counts. I hope you will cast it for the candidates of your choice on Nov. 8.