Voter turnout embarrassing

By Observer editorial May 24, 2013 09:13 am

It’s one thing to refuse to exercise. All you’re hurting is yourself. It’s another thing to refuse to exercise the right to vote. You’re in a sense hurting America and doing a disservice to people who sacrificed, sometimes made the ultimate sacrifice, to make that privilege available.

With Memorial Day around the corner, a day we honor those who fought and died for our country, it seems an appropriate time to remember that voting is a privilege many people have fought to preserve.

It’s not uncommon to hear about veterans of World War II or the Korean conflict who have never, ever missed a chance to vote. The rest of us should try to do the same.

Amidst all this, it’s a sad day when an election, especially a vote-by-mail election, draws only a 24.5 percent turnout. Such was the case, however, in the most recent election for Union County school boards.

Union County Clerk Robin Church said she found the turnout disappointing. The rest of us should find it embarrassing.

“I always want the turnout to be 60 to 75 percent,” Church told The Observer. “Voting is such a wonderful right and privilege. It is a chance to truly be a voice.”

Since Oregon went to vote-by-mail elections, voting is also easy. There are not excuses worthy of saying out loud for not voting beyond not being educated about the candidates, and pure and simple apathy. We no longer have to get time off work, or stand in line, to vote.

It’s as easy as putting a letter in the mail. Easier than doing the dishes.

Oregon established vote-by-mail with Ballot Measure 60, a citizen’s initiative, in 1998. The measure made Oregon the first state to conduct its elections exclusively by mail. The measure passed, 69.4 percent to 30.6 percent.

It’s not known how many people turned out for that election, but let’s hope they meant what they voted for.

As Oregonians, we take pride in things we pioneered for the nation. We take pride in the bottle bill, the beach bill and vote by mail.

We can take no pride, however, if we throw out bottles on the roadside, if we fail to take advantage of our 100 percent access to a wonderful coastline, or if we don’t vote, even if it is almost as easy as switching on the TV with the remote control. 

We need to do better in the future.