Exercise your right, flex your voting muscle

  • Published
  • By Maj. Dayton Nooner III
  • 819th RED HORSE Squadron deputy commander
I was reading an article recently regarding the parliamentary elections taking place in France. With the change in presidency there last month, these elections determined who would make up the 577-member National Assembly under newly minted President Nicolas Sarkozy. 

What astonished politicians and campaign advisers alike was not who won these proceedings, but how low voter turnout was. Participation in the nation-wide vote amounted to 61 percent, a record low. Turnout in recent elections over the past several years in France usually averaged in the 75 to 80 percent. 

While this may seem alarming at first, the numbers in our own country are much lower. Many of us know the United States has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the free world. Only 70 percent of the eligible population is even registered to vote. Barely half of these registered voters cast a vote in the last presidential election, one of the most contested in the past century. 

Other U.S. elections routinely draw a turnout of less than 50 percent. Dozens of developed nations around the world (specifically, those where voting is not compulsory) boast of voter turnout frequently exceeding 80 and sometimes eclipsing 90 percent. Canada has hovered around 75 percent voter turnout in the last several major elections. Believe it or not, Iraq and Afghanistan have had higher voter turnout rates than the U.S. in numerous proceedings since Sept. 11, 2001. So why is all this important in the grand scheme of things? 

Simply put, one of the fundamental elements underpinning success of any democracy is a free election system, the very essence of which is exercised by the voting of its citizens. This certainly holds true for our democracy, perhaps more so when considering the U.S. is often viewed as the "leader" of the free world and has, by far, the largest economy in the entire world. 

Our strengths can only be maintained by making our voices heard to elect leaders and pass laws and provisions to continue the "American Dream" our founding fathers envisioned. How can we accomplish this? By voting! We need to improve our voting record to not only become more engaged in our own domestic issues, but also to show the world our citizens are fully involved in helping lead the global economy and free world. 

Looming on the horizon is the 2008 presidential election with eight Democrats and eleven Republicans vying to become the 44th President of the United States. Other elections are limited to local municipalities. 

However, no matter how big or how small an election is perceived to be, exercising our right to vote at all times makes a difference for the success of our nation and, indirectly, the rest of the world. Stated another way, it is our duty to our democracy!