Failing grade for voter turnout {Editor’s Column}

Niki Turner

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will have to sit on their blisters.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Thirty-five percent.

For just a moment, imagine if only 35 percent of your body was functioning right now. You’d be in a bed in an intensive care unit somewhere.

Or imagine getting 35 percent on an important test. Anything below 60 percent is a failing grade.

Only thirty-five percent of registered, active voters spent five minutes filling in a few dots on a ballot that was mailed to them at no charge, and which they could return either for the cost of a stamp or for no charge at all simply by dropping it off at town hall or at the fancy ballot box across the street from the post office.

Voting is one of our fundamental rights as citizens, and yet Americans in general have a terrible track record.

We’re vehement when it comes to fighting for freedom of religion and the right to keep and bear arms, but we apparently don’t care about our right to vote, even in elections where our votes make a tangible difference in the outcome.

Mail ballot elections have simplified the process more than ever. Your ballot comes directly to you. You can fill it out in the privacy of your own home and return it in the dark of night.

So why aren’t more of us participating in the process? A fraction of the populace is running the show. That’s not a representative democracy. There is no excuse. If we don’t even care enough to vote, why do we think we deserve the rest of the rights we hold so dear?

We’ll get another opportunity in May, when our special taxing district boards have their elections. It won’t be a mail ballot. We’ll have to make a bit of an effort, but perhaps those-who-did-not-vote can redeem themselves. Let’s at least try to get a “D.”

Of course, I’m trusting all of our well-educated, civic-minded, responsible readers and subscribers took full advantage of their voting rights, and will simply take this as a reminder to encourage those who didn’t.

What happened, you ask, to the media? In 1987 Ronald Reagan killed the Fairness Doctrine Bill, which would have required broadcast media to continue the doctrine implemented in 1949 that afforded “reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance.” In other words, both sides got a fair shake.

Do a quick mental review of media after 1987 and you can literally watch things go haywire.

There’s a national move at play to institute heavy tariffs on imported newsprint. If there was any support from U.S. newsprint producers, I might be inclined to consider the argument, but the complaint stems solely from the hedge fund that owns a sole paper producer in the northwest. Even the industry most likely to benefit from the proposed tariffs is against the idea.

If these tariffs are put in place, we’ll start losing one of the least partisan, least divisive voices in media: community journalism.

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