By Senator Mike Crapo
It's that time of the political year: billboards, yard signs, political ads on radio, television and the Internet all signal the imminent arrival of this year's general election. Although political ads can seem tiresome, given the alternative-no right to choose our leaders-I can live with the sometimes extreme messaging that characterizes our elections. The tone and substance of these ads should serve as a reminder that voters must be discerning and educate themselves about issues and candidates.
In 2006, 43.6 percent of eligible U.S. voters turned out in the general election. This was the highest voter turnout by 4 percent for a non-presidential (midterm) election since 1970. This seems to be good news, unless you consider what the number also says-well over half of all potential voters abdicated one of the most precious (and unappreciated) rights we hold in this nation. While Idaho's voter turnout was a few percentage points above the national turnout, over half of those eligible did not vote. Although voting rates have increased overall, it's disturbing that more than 50 percent of our nation's citizens aged 18 and older chose not to have a voice at the polls.
It's even more mystifying when you consider that elsewhere in young democracies, where previously disenfranchised people now have the right to vote, they tend to have very high voter turnout. These people understand the oppression that results when the governed are voiceless.
Some are frustrated with the blatant partisanship that grips our nation today and refuse to vote. I, too, am frustrated with the lack of comity in national politics. Still, I cannot surrender my right to vote; indeed, it makes me all the more anxious to cast my ballot.
Voting is both the right and solemn responsibility of members of a free and democratic society. Not only should American citizens exercise their right to vote, they should do so with knowledge and awareness of issues and the candidates. Be a discerning consumer of the media, bearing in mind that bias quite often exists. One of the best places to find out where a candidate stands on issues is to check their website, write or call the campaign. A great way to get detailed voter information is to visit the www.Idahovotes.gov website.
Casting votes in Idaho has become very easy. You can vote in person on Election Day. You can vote in person before Election Day at an absentee polling station, or you can vote absentee by mail. In compliance with the Help America Vote Act, ballot marking devices have been purchased for every polling station in the state. These machines assist elderly, vision-impaired and disabled voters.
Our Founding Fathers, followed by countless veterans of yesterday and today, sacrificed much to ensure our freedoms, one of which is the freedom to choose those who lead our communities, state and nation. Please don't be too busy, too discouraged, too frustrated or, at the worst, too apathetic to vote this November. Our future--your future--depends on it.
For information on voting in Idaho, please go to my website: http://crapo.senate.gov.
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