It’s put up or shut up time. Thousands of voters in Blount County and Tennessee today will cast ballots that will guide our future, like it or not.

Did you vote early? If not, will you vote today? If your answers are no and no, then maybe it’s just as well.

For all the lip service touting the glories of our democratic republic form of government, it’s all wasted if lawmakers and government administrators are selected by a citizenry uninformed — or even worse, apathetic.

Apathy is probably the most common excuse for low voter turnout. And make no mistake, for a nation that pays homage to its dedication to democracy, the numbers say otherwise.

The Pew Research Center put together numbers from the Census Bureau and found 55.7 percent of the nation’s voting age population turned out to vote in 2016.

Not many more than half of those who could vote did vote. Not many more than half could go to the trouble, it seems. That’s even though it has gotten easier to vote, as early voting has broadened the opportunity to participate.

(It’s interesting to note that the number of people who claimed to have voted, 137.5 million, outnumbered the actual number of votes tallied by more than half a million. But that’s another story.)

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes most of the highly developed democracies, compared national voting turnouts from the most recent elections. Out of 32 countries, the U.S. placed 26th, just behind Estonia. No flag waiving or shouts of “USA” for that dismal finish.

Just to take a fresh perspective on the dreary numbers, suppose conventional wisdom misses the mark. Imagine that apathy is not rampant. In fact, it’s hard to argue that people don’t care about politics in this period of loud political discord. Could they simply be fed up with the nonsense?

People do care when they believe they can make a difference.

In Blount County the “dog days” of summer ushered in a couple of examples of how passionate people can be when government bodies convene to make decisions that could impact their lives in ways that leave them with questions.

In July, two proposed zoning changes brought people to public meetings and onto their feet.

First there was the request by Blackberry to rezone more than 5,000 acres of its property to allow for commercial properties on land in Walland. Supporters and opponents made points and raised questions. The proposers are considering what’s next.

Then there was the special exception requested by an engineering firm on behalf of Belle Investment Co. to allow townhomes on a development between Montvale and Farris roads. This is not over.

Don’t think people cared? Then you weren’t there. The Daily Time was, though.

What about that other popular excuse for not voting, the one about not knowing about the candidates? The Daily Times covered that base, too.

We published profiles so candidates for public office could tell people about themselves — everything from their personal biographies to the reasons they are seeking public service to why voters should pick them instead of their opponents.

It was all laid out in black and white and, for those who take democracy seriously, read all over. The Blount County general election and the Tennessee primary are at hand.

Now it’s up to you, the voter. Your community’s future starts today.

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