What happens when you don’t vote

What is wrong with us? Our soldiers fight a war half a world away so that people in a country most of us have never even visited can have the privilege of voting for their leaders. But here in the good old US of A, it seems as though we could care less about the right to vote that so many patriots once died to ensure.

While talking heads and pundits ponder the meaning of our latest primary results and discuss the confluence of certain issues and the way one candidate ran a campaign versus another, the truth of the matter is that our nominees to represent us in the United States Senate for the next six years were chosen by the saddest turnout of voters I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Apparently, somewhere between 10 and 20 % of the Alaskan electorate believes in the concept of democracy and the value of voting. The rest, I assume, had better things to do than participate in free elections that Tuesday. They probably had to go fishing or hit Costco for a sale or walk the dog. Whatever they did that they considered more important than voting, let me just say, “Shame on you. Shame. Shame. Shame.”

It’s not as though people had to walk miles to get to a polling place while carrying a baby. They didn’t have to wait days in line for their chance to vote. They didn’t have to pass a gamut of gun toting soldiers they could only hope were on their side and wouldn’t open fire. No, all they had to do was get in their car, drive probably no more than ten minutes to their polling place and spend about three minutes in a private booth making black circles next to the name of the candidate of their choice.

Doesn’t seem as though that should have been all that hard, does it? Heck, if you really couldn’t be around on election day, you could have voted early, voted absentee or voted a question ballot if you weren’t near your precinct. Government has done everything but send someone to your home with the ballot and a black pen to make voting as convenient as possible. And still we Alaskans ignore the danger that arises when we do not exercise our right to vote.

So, quite frankly, good for Joe Miller’s supporters. He may not be my candidate of choice but he clearly was the candidate of choice for people who bothered to vote. Those of you who are shocked by Murkowski’s loss should first ask yourself if you made it to the voting booth that day, because the only way to win in this country – well, except possibly for one odd moment in Florida in 2000 – is to get the majority of the votes. Your candidate doesn’t win if you are sitting home watching American Idol reruns on the assumption that your neighbor will vote for your candidate so you don’t have to be bothered.

Look around you at work today. Look around you at the grocery store. Look around you at the restaurant.  About eight out of every ten people you see did not think our country and its guarantee of free elections with a private vote mattered enough to take a few minutes to cast a ballot. Pretty pathetic.

It’s even more pathetic when I think of the big fuss some people make about patriotism while thumping their chests, waving the flag and declaring America to be the best and only place to be. I don’t disagree with them that America is a pretty special place. I just wonder how they think America will stay so special if they don’t participate in government. 

There’s an old phrase that says, “Use it or lose it.” I look around at Alaska today and think that we are in great danger of losing our freedom of choice simply by not exercising our right to make a choice. On the other hand, I guess sitting home and doing nothing is a choice in and of itself. It’s a choice that says, “I don’t care and I don’t have to. Someone else will fulfill democracy’s promise for me.”

Well, congratulations. They did. Welcome to Joe Miller’s candidacy. At least his supporters cared enough to vote.