Eligible voters who enjoy the benefits of freedom made possible by immense sacrifices of past patriots probably don’t realize they align themselves with Russian-born radical Emma Goldman when they stay home on Election Day while muttering nonsense about how “it doesn’t matter, there’s no difference in the political parties anymore and all politicians are the same.”
Goldman, who emigrated to the United States but never became an American citizen, once opined: “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”
However, Franklin D. Roosevelt observed that only voters themselves could outlaw voting.
“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves, and the only way they could do this is by not voting,” the nation’s 32nd president said.
A lot of people haven’t been voting in Kentucky—especially in the important off-year elections that decide who will serve in the state’s constitutional offices and move into the governor’s mansion.
Only 29 percent of registered voters cast votes when Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration was reelected in 2011—down from 38 percent when Beshear was first elected governor in 2007.
Ironically, while the Secretary of State’s office has boasted of record numbers of voters registering in recent years, actual turnout in off-year elections is dwindling.
Despite the fact that the number of registered voters increased from 2.8 million when the 2007 election took place to 2.94 million in 2011, the Kentucky Board of Elections reports that turnout fell from nearly 1.08 million in 2007 to less than 843,000 in the last gubernatorial election.
Think about it—more than 2 million Kentuckians who were registered to vote didn’t even bother to show up the last time we elected a governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, agriculture commissioner and treasurer.
Goldman-like cynicism certainly plays a role, as does the fact that without presidential, congressional or even state legislative candidates on the ballot, there’s simply not as much interest.
To those who haven’t bothered to show up and vote because they buy into Goldman’s philosophy that their votes don’t matter, one recent example soundly refutes such nonsense: this year’s Republican gubernatorial primary.
Businessman Matt Bevin became the GOP nominee by a grand total of 83 votes. Few would disagree that Bevin’s candidacy is different than would have been the case with one of his opponents.
Yet the greater political sin is committed by those who don’t vote because they just can’t seem to get interested in these statewide constitutional offices.
Anyone who’s had even one eye open in recent years knows that the decisions made in Frankfort will have at least as big of an impact on our daily lives and the well-being of the commonwealth as anything Washington or President Barack Obama do.
Washington’s not going to solve Kentucky’s pension crisis. Obama certainly isn’t going to fill the leadership vacuum created by the current caretaker administration in Frankfort that’s missed myriad opportunities to lead on behalf of policies that would bring jobs and substantial economic growth to our state’s water-treading economy.
Washington certainly isn’t going to stand up to the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of Kentucky’s coal miners and farmers. And Obama isn’t going to audit noncompliant special taxing districts or corrupt and bloated school districts.
Even if you can’t seem to understand the importance of voting, tens of thousands of your fellow Americans understood the significance of it so well they paid the ultimate price to protect your freedom to go into that voting booth and, without coercion (with the exception of increasingly annoying TV political ads), cast your vote.
To all AWOL voters: If you can’t seem to get it, maybe you can trust that past patriots did and at least honor their sacrifice by casting your vote on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at [email protected] Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.