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Voice of the Engaged

November 2, 2018
By Darren Fraser , Emmetsburg News

Thirteen countries in Latin American have compulsory voting. Roughly one-fifth of electoral democracies enforce some type of national compulsory voting. As we know here, in the States, we still enjoy the freedom not to vote, which, in elections past, citizens exercised with frightening regularity.

Times change.

Over 60 percent of U.S. voters turned out for the 2016 election cycle-the third highest total since the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971. Iowa was in the top six states, with 69 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot.

Last June, Iowa voters set a record, casting over 279,000-or 13 percent of the population-in the primary. The old record was just over 233,000 in 2014.

According to the Office of the Iowa Secretary of State, in the 2014 primary, 23.37 percent of Palo Alto County's registered Republicans voted. Registered Democrats in the county did slightly better, with 23.48 percent voting. In the 2016 primary, numbers dipped for both parties. For Republicans, 18,92 percent of the faithful turned out compared to just 12.76 percent for Democrats. In this year's primary, Republicans boasted a 30.15 percent turnout; the Democrats perked up with 21.65 percent. Even the Libertarians got into swing with 12.5 percent casting votes.

It is easy to be cynical about politics these days. Last Sunday's Des Moines Register reported $75 million in campaign cash has been raised for the 2018 election, with Governor Reynolds and challenger Fred Hubbell accounting for $28 million in the gubernatorial race. In case you are wondering, there are two other parties involved vying for the governorship. Jake Porter and Lynne Gentry are fronting the Libertarian ticket for governor lieutenant governor. Gary Siegwarth and Natalia Blaskovich are headlining the Clear Water Party of Iowa campaign.

You ask, "When was the last time Iowa had a Libertarian governor?" Never. "How about a Clear Water" Let me stop you right there.

Money is an inescapable fact of politics. Jeb Bush dropped $130 million on his 2016 presidential bid. EBay's Meg Whitman dumped $175 million on her failed California gubernatorial run. She was worth $1.2 billion at the time so chances are good didn't lose her shirt in the process.

Voter apathy in the past principally manifested as the one-vote-won't-matter mantra. I never saw the logic in that line of thinking. If even one million of the most apathetic voters voted in a block, they might affect the outcome (if they could muster the energy to rise from the couch and check). I am more concerned with the influence of lobbyists, PACs and special interests. And with the mega-donors, like the Koch Brothers or Tom Steyer.

The cool irony, though, is the only thing we as humble citizens can do is vote. I can't put my head around $75,000, let alone $75 million. And since I can't do anything about the puppet masters, I soldier on. I read up on the issues, I study where candidates stand on issues-and ignore their commercials. I tune out the rhetoric and focus on the substance. And I vote my conscience. For me, this is the ultimate expression of the voice of the engaged.

 
 
 

 

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