S. E. Williams
Magazine editor and drama critic George Jean Nathan once said, “Bad officials are the ones elected by good citizens who do not vote.”
This election cycle, some potential voters have expressed apathy about the political process and are discouraged from voting for a variety of reasons that range from the integrity of the presidential candidates; to the relentless negativity of the presidential campaign; to the influence of money in politics; to frustration over gerrymandered congressional districts; and the list goes on.
The issue of America’s electoral apathy is neither surprising, nor is it unprecedented. Consider this—in 2008, a larger percentage of eligible voters participated in the American presidential election than the nation had experienced in forty years; and still more than 40 percent of the country’s eligible voters did not vote.
The lack of voter participation in America is certainly incongruent with the country’s founding principle as a nation—of, by and for the people. This is particularly true when one considers most Americans view voting as a sacred right of citizenship and a civic responsibility; however, voting is certainly not compulsory even though there is little question, higher voter turnout makes democracy more representative of the people.
2016 is a presidential election year—a time when voter turnout is historically higher than it is during off-presidential election cycles. During a presidential election year, a vote can mean so much more than merely a presidential preference. During every election cycle there are many important reasons to vote. For example, a president’s ability to move forward on his or her political agenda is largely determined by who controls either the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, or both.
Even when a candidate one seriously dislikes is elected, voting can make a difference in the candidate’s margin of victory—expanding or contracting the size of their mandate. A very limited mandate can force some elected officials who lean either too far right or too far left, to adopt more moderate policies. This is may be partly due to the reality that once elected, an official must quickly focus on re-election.
Who controls the presidency and/or Senate will play a key role in the nomination and approval of future Supreme Court Justices. Who controls the presidency and/or the legislature will also determine important issues related to war and peace, the environment, the economy, Social Security, Medicare and Healthcare, etc.
Also voters who may feel apathetic about casting their ballots are encouraged to consider the old maxim, “All politics are local.”
This year, the breadth of California’s ballot measures is expansive and equally as important, as are a number of local measures. They will impact everything from the availability of recreational marijuana; to school construction and modifications; to an increased cigarette tax; to revisions to the criminal justice system and the administration of the death penalty, just to name a few.
Late last week, the Public Policy Institute of California gave a glimpse into the state’s projected ballot outcomes; however, every vote yet to be cast will be important to every candidate and every ballot measure—voting is the only way to adequately reflect the will of the people in the inland region on these important issues.
The poll showed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton led Republican candidate Donald Trump 54 percent to 28 percent. Attorney General Kamala Harris led U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez, 42 percent to 20 percent in their contest to be the state’s next U.S. Senator.
In addition, the poll showed Proposition 64, the measure to make recreational marijuana legal was ahead with 55 percent in favor and 38 percent opposed. The poll also showed majorities favored measures to extend a tax on high incomes (Proposition 55); increase cigarette taxes (Proposition 56); and bonds to fund school construction projects (Proposition 51).
The local and statewide propositions, measures and candidates on this year’s ballot will have a significant impact on the day to day lives of Californians—an important reason to exercise your right to vote.
America is recognized globally for its fierce protection of democracy and the rights it is designed to preserve; but the country also carries the shame of continuously managing to produce the lowest voter turnout of all of the industrialized, democratic nations in the world. It is possible this year’s presidential campaign is destined to produce similar lackluster voter participation results unless the threatened voter apathy can be transformed into voter enthusiasm and participation at the polls.
Sixty-eight percent of Californians approve of the job President Obama is doing and yet at least 50 percent believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. This, is addition to the low opinion 69 percent of Californians have of Congress may help explain the nagging sense of political apathy experienced by so many this year.
What Californians think and how they vote is important. Why? Because California boasts the nation’s biggest economy, largest population, and economists have projected its economic growth will continue to outpace the rest of the nation over the next five years.
The UCLA Anderson Forecast released in September 2015, looked at projected job growth in Southern California and according to the report, the fastest job gains in the state through the year 2020 are expected to occur in the Inland Empire—making the inland region an important constituency not only in the state but the nation as well.
Often, what happens in California lays a foundation for change in the rest of the nation. For example, California was the first to regulate vehicle exhaust by setting limits on hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide emissions and California set the nation’s first air quality standards—both issues that continue to play an important role as the nation grapples with concerns related to climate change. These are just a couple of examples of the important role California plays in shaping policy.
What California voters decide is important whether they are electing candidates to represent them or rules and regulations to guide behaviors.
With so much at stake this election, citizens are reminded that in order for democracy to work, voters must participate in the process. Those tempted to stay away from the polls are encouraged to remember the words of American storyteller Louis L’Amour who said, “One who does not vote, has no right to complain.”