Although saddened by the number of American citizens who refuse to spend just a short thirty minutes or so researching candidates before an election (my God, what good is a smart phone if you can't find just a wee bit of candidate information), I was downright horrified by the small number of people who voted here and around the country.
Just 36.4% of eligible voters bothered to visit the polls.
That means 36.4% of voters helped decide which tiny number of Americans are going to run our government.
What's that you ask? Why did I say those voters only helped to decide? Because the rest of you who didn't vote actually made the final decisions for the rest of us. Pay attention, there could be a test (or at least there should be): by NOT voting, you still voted. In fact, you determined the outcomes.
Those of us who have been sharing information, local news articles, links to candidate web sites, and trying to talk to voters in person on their front porches want to say "what happened to you?"
Before you non-voters start in with the excuses, just save your breath.
Too busy to vote? Sorry to hear that. Try taking a paltry ten minutes some time during the week preceeding election day to vote early. In my county in Kansas it's easy; you get two entire weeks. Seriously, you would've been in and out in ten minutes during the early voting period.
How about this option - vote by mail. The election office will actually send an official ballot right to your mail box and all you have to do is dig out a pen and fill in the dots.
Oh, and here's a link you might want to save. It shows individual state laws regarding employee time off to vote. Yep, many states will give employees paid time off to hit the polls.
Have more important things on your plate? Sorry, but I can't seem to summon much sympathathy. You see, this is America. We've seen the lengths Americans will go to when they really want to vote. Remember Florida a number of years ago? Ladies, remember Alice Freaking Paul being force fed with a tube crammed down her throat while she fought for YOUR right to vote? Americans are nothing if not determined, at least when something is important to us.
Let me clarify: I'm not talking about homeless people. And I'm not talking about the elderly people I met while helping Amber Versola canvass who live in an assisted living facility but who had still mapped out a plan regarding how they were going to get to the polls (those who hadn't already voted by mail). And I'm not talking about the single mothers that Amber offered to drive to the polls herself.
I'm not talking about the woman I saw while poll watching who slowly made her way into the church pushing her walker, coming to stop behind an elderly couple leaning their canes against the table so they could sign in. I'm not talking about the wheel chair bound young gentleman with cerebral palsy and all that he endured in order to arrive at his poll site and spend the four minutes it took to vote. And I'm not talking about the woman suffering from COPD hauling an oxygen tank behind her while searching desperately for a chair once she made it inside the poll building so she could rest before completing a ballot.
I'm certainly not talking about the over 20,000 Kansas voters in limbo right now because their Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, felt infringing on their rights was appropriate to do in light of the less than 0.0001% voter fraud cases that have occurred over the past ten years.
No, I'm not talking about those people.
I'm talking about the rest of you. Those of you who are registered and DIDN'T vote. Those of you should register but are too busy. Or just don't care.
I'm talking about those of you who are willing to get out of bed at 3 am on Thanksgiving day so you can stand in line in the feezing cold at Walmart trying to buy the cheapest shit made in China, at slave wages, because you have to have another television. You'll suffer that hell but aren't willing to vote?
I'm talking about those of you who are willing to ignore bills but make damn sure your new iPhone is paid up so that you can still follow the latest Vines or Instagrams. You spend hours looking at mindless pictures and videos but didn't vote?
I'm talking about those of you who spend untold hours upon hours researching your fantasy football picks. You'll write a dissertation before deciding which wide receiver to pick but can't spend thirty minutes researching who to elect to the highest office in your state?
I'm talking about those of you who used Google to search for the cheapest Royals playoff tickets, or the cheapest concert tickets, or the cheapest pair of leather boots. You know how to use search engines when shopping for merchandise (or fantasy football linemen) but can't figure out how to Google "Brownback Davis debate"?
My response to most of you who say you just didn't have time is "bullshit". (*gratuitous caveat before that ONE person says "I was in the hospital the day of the election" or "I work five jobs with only two hours of sleep a night" or....seriously, who am I kidding - if you are reading this then you most likely could have voted).
For those of you who think your vote doesn't matter? Maybe, in heavily red or blue concentrated states, it doesn't when it comes to the electoral college. I can assure you, however, that Cowley County's Ed Trimmer, who won his State Rep race by a mere seventeen votes, would disagree with you. So would Pat Sloop, also a KS State Rep candidate. She lost by 48 votes.
My response to those of you who say you just didn't have enough information is "Google/Yahoo". You know, just like you do when researching which product to buy.
Because at the end of they day, that is exactly what we are doing when we are voting. We are in charge of buying everything we, our family, and our community needs that is most important to us. More important than a television, or tickets, or a fantasy football team.
We are "buying" funding for education, highways, and rural hospitals. We are buying civil rights. We are buying what should be our voices.
So the next time there is an election, maybe take some time to research. The amount of information available, for instance, on the Kansas Governor's race was mind blowing. And voting? Well hell. You can often do that in the time it takes to put gas in your car and go through Starbucks.
Try giving a shit about our Democracy. Or our state. Try actually honoring those men and women who died for our country. Because the most extreme believers, the most radical and unyielding, NEVER miss an election. And because at the end of the day, your voice is the most powerful shopping currency you possess. That currency becomes more and more powerful when more of you care enough to use it, to pool it together, to speak out using common sense and not extreme ideology. It is your voices we need now more than ever.
Did you know that just a few short months ago, 84.6% of the Scottish population voted on their independence referendum? And across the pond from them, the most powerful Democracy in the world managed to spit out a paltry 36.4% turnout. We should all be ashamed. If watching my state crash into a massive black hole wasn't enough to get your attention maybe a little good ol' peer pressure will work.
Otherwise, most of us are out of answers.