We Americans are living with an unprecedented absence of leadership. In the Deep South, we have lived with this void for most of our history, so we’re a little more used to it than the rest of the nation— but that doesn’t make it OK. In the face of Congressional deadlock, soaring national debt, secular/religious strife, rogue policy actions by state legislatures, mistrust of the police, declines in public education funding, exorbitant college costs, internet predators and trolls, crumbling labor unions, global warming, and Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, the Passive Activist series offers ideas for how ordinary people can create and implement positive change in our own lives. Movements are made up of people.
Get registered, show up, and vote.
According to the US Census report titled “Who Votes?” only about 40% – 50% of Americans over age 18 actually show up to the polls to cast a ballot. In 2014, only 64.9% of American adults are even registered. We all feel free to express our political opinions, but less than half of us express our opinions in a way and at the time when it matters most.
Getting registered to vote is a relatively easy process in most states. And in the states where it isn’t easy, it’s still worthwhile to struggle through the hurdles and hoops. Yes, voter ID laws and similar provisions have made it harder for many people to vote, but the only way to change those laws is to get registered, show up, and vote out the people who make those kinds of laws.
Voting is the ultimate form of lazy man’s activism. Generally, we are only asked to vote two times every other year: in the summertime primaries and in the November general election. Polling places are near your home, they’re open twelve hours on voting day, and federal law says they have to be adequately staffed. If the time, date and place don’t work for you, then options like early voting, absentee ballots, and provisional ballots are there, too, but exercising those options has to be handled in a more responsible and timely manner than waltzing in at the last minute.
In many elections, voter turnout falls below 30% – and in primary run-offs, it can even fall to around 10% – which means to me that too many elected officials are sitting in their offices, making policy decisions, because they got 50% – 60% of the vote from the 20% of voters who showed up, and that’s just 20% of 65% of adults who are registered. Candidates who receive those vote totals do not have a majority at all, not even if you calculate it using Common Core math.
All of us must get registered, show up, and vote. When everyone is voting, then we’ll see how the election results look . . .