Voting essential this November
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.