The midterms are over. We finally got a reprieve from those depressing election commercials and mailings. Judging by the extremes that candidates resort to demean opponents, it’s fair to ask: Have they no shame? Consider that a rhetorical question.
The pertinent question is this: Did you vote?
For those who didn’t, a common justification is because their vote won’t make a difference. Chalk that up as an excuse for apathy.
Votes do matter. Take last week when two candidates for Alcoa City Commission went to bed not knowing if they’d won or lost. Ballots had Mayor Don Mull leading Tanya Henderson Martin by a single vote. The counting of absentee ballots wasn’t completed until Wednesday morning. With a total of six more absentee votes than Mull, Martin was elected by a margin that can be counted on one hand.
Given that Mull has served as an Alcoa commissioner since 1971 and mayor since 1983, and that Martin will be the first African-American woman ever elected to serve on the Alcoa City Commission, that five-vote margin is historic.
At the national level, attention focused on the unusually high voter turnout for the midterms. Politicians and handlers sharpened their barbs to poke at their respective bases, and the bases responded.
As updated Sunday by the United States Election Project, an information source for the U.S. electoral system based at the University of Florida, the turnout rate for the 2018 General Election is predicted to be 49.1 percent. That’s an educated guess, realizing that the results are not yet certified and votes are still being counted in some places.
That would put the projected total ballots around 115,662,500 — the first time an American midterm election has exceeded 100 million votes. The last time the percentage of eligible Americans voting in a midterm reached 49 percent was 1966. Both were good years for voting participation, but the number of voters remained fewer than the no-shows.
How far do we have to look to find a majority of eligible voters taking part in a midterm? That would be 104 years ago, four years before the armistice was signed in 1918 that officially ended World War I — the date we celebrated Sunday as Veterans Day.
An estimated 116,708 military personnel died in World War I. Battlefield deaths by American soldiers in all wars is estimated at around 660,000. But even that is not enough to get most eligible Americans to vote in a midterm election. Or as some might put it, to take the trouble to vote.
Over many years, hundreds of thousands of American gave their lives so fellow citizens could exercise their rights to vote. These patriots took the trouble and made the sacrifice.
It is the height of arrogance for anyone to say they don’t vote because their ballot will not determine the winner. Who elected them the decider for the rest of us?
Considering there are so many — most actually — who just don’t care, maybe they’re right. Maybe their communities, states and nation are better off without their votes. An uninformed vote is worse than no vote at all.