Vot­ing essen­tial this Novem­ber

The Southern Berks News - - OPINION -

Re­gard­less of the out­come, the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion will go down in his­tory. Vot­ers will ei­ther choose Hil­lary Clin­ton as the first fe­male pres­i­dent of the United States or Don­ald Trump as ar­guably the most un­likely po­lit­i­cal out­sider.

The cam­paign it­self is re­mark­able for its dra­matic twists and sur­prises. Rarely has an elec­tion cam­paign oc­cu­pied the Amer­i­can psy­che like this one, its ram­i­fi­ca­tions and the foibles of the can­di­dates dom­i­nat­ing house­hold and work­place con­ver­sa­tions.

But voic­ing strong opin­ions doesn’t de­ter­mine the re­sults in a democ­racy. Vot­ing does.

Come Nov. 8, the only at­ti­tude that will put ei­ther one con­tro­ver­sial can­di­date or the other in the Oval Of­fice is the de­ter­mi­na­tion to go to the polls and cast a vote.

Re­gard­less of can­di­date choice, this is not an elec­tion to sit on the side­lines. Every year, too many cit­i­zens forego their right to choose those who gov­ern them and then pay the price of dis­sat­is­fac­tion.

Al­though pres­i­den­tial elec­tions at­tract a greater turnout than state or lo­cal con­tests, the per­cent­age of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers go­ing to the polls has been trend­ing down­ward. Voter turnout dipped from 62.3 per­cent of el­i­gi­ble cit­i­zens vot­ing in 2008 to an es­ti­mated 57.5 in 2012, ac­cord­ing to the Bi­par­ti­san Pol­icy Cen­ter. The cen­ter re­ported that fig­ure was also be­low the 60.4 per­cent of the 2004 elec­tion.

“De­spite an in­crease of more than 8 mil­lion cit­i­zens in the el­i­gi­ble pop­u­la­tion, turnout de­clined from 131 mil­lion vot­ers in 2008 to an es­ti­mated 126 mil­lion vot­ers in 2012 when all bal­lots are tal­lied. Some 93 mil­lion el­i­gi­ble cit­i­zens did not vote, ac­cord­ing to the Bi­par­ti­san Pol­icy Cen­ter re­port.

In Penn­syl­va­nia, 2012 turnout was 57.83 per­cent, or 5,596,499 vot­ers of 9,677,000 who were el­i­gi­ble.

To­day, there are 10.7 mil­lion more el­i­gi­ble vot­ers, ac­cord­ing to a study from the Pew Re­search Cen­ter, with a larger num­ber from racial and eth­nic mi­nori­ties.

The ques­tion of how many cit­i­zens par­tic­i­pate in the de­ci­sion to elect Hil­lary Clin­ton or Don­ald Trump be­gins with each of those el­i­gi­ble vot­ers tak­ing the steps to have their say.

The first step is reg­is­ter­ing to vote. The last day to reg­is­ter in Penn­syl­va­nia is Oct. 11. Vot­ing laws re­quire that a per­son be a U.S. citizen, be reg­is­tered in Penn­syl­va­nia, live at their cur­rent ad­dress by Oct. 9, be 18 years of age by Nov. 8, and not be in jail for a felony.

Those vot­ing at a polling place for the first time, ei­ther be­cause of a move or as a new reg­is­tered voter, must present a photo ID when vot­ing.

Penn­syl­va­nia al­lows vot­ing by ab­sen­tee bal­lot but only by ap­pli­ca­tion. A voter must ap­ply to the County Board of Elec­tions for an ab­sen­tee bal­lot. The County Board of Elec­tions must re­ceive your ap­pli­ca­tion for ab­sen­tee bal­lot no later than 5 p.m. Nov. 1. A pa­per bal­lot will be is­sued and must be re­turned to the board of elec­tions by 5 p.m. Fri­day be­fore the elec­tion, or by the close of polls on Elec­tion Day for pres­i­dent and vice pres­i­dent votes only.

Sur­veys in re­cent weeks have shown in­creas­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion among reg­is­tered vot­ers with the choices be­fore them. A Pew Re­search Cen­ter sur­vey ear­lier this month showed just a third of reg­is­tered vot­ers say they are very or fairly sat­is­fied with the choices, while 63 per­cent say they are not sat­is­fied.

This marks the first time in six pres­i­den­tial con­tests since 1992 that pos­i­tive views of the choice of can­di­dates have shown a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline over the course of the cam­paign, the Pew re­port noted. Still, three-quar­ters think this year’s cam­paign is in­ter­est­ing; few find it dull.

Whether in­ter­ested, bored or dis­gusted, just about every­body has an opin­ion in this elec­tion. That makes it es­pe­cially im­por­tant to vote — im­por­tant and nec­es­sary.

Make sure the his­tory be­ing made is your choice.

Whether in­ter­ested, bored or dis­gusted, just about every­body has an opin­ion in this elec­tion.

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