Voter turnout for the 2016 primary election was 14.7 percent. County Clerk Janet Klasinski characterized that figure as “awful.” I could not agree more. Throwing in a factor of perhaps 1 percent of registered voters who had legitimate reasons for not voting (death, unexpected travel, ballot lost in the mail), that leaves about 84 percent who did not care enough to vote.
People who cannot bestir themselves to vote are either too lazy, too ignorant to learn about the candidates, too oblivious to know there is an upcoming election or have the warped belief that all politicians are crooks so a pox on all their houses.
For those of you in the latter category, if you bothered to check, you would find that there are decent neighbors of yours who are running for office. They are people who have served the nation in the military, people who own businesses you frequent, people active in community organizations and volunteer at shelters, etc. There are people running who have integrity and a moral compass that may align with yours.
There are candidates who want to do good for the nation, state, county and their local constituents. They want to solve problems and spend money wisely. They want to fix streets, reduce crime and improve education. They want to address concerns about illegal immigration and gun rights, develop a tax code that is rational and grow the economy.
And some want to stop the killing of 6,810 unborn babies annually in Kansas. Other candidates believe that killing 6,810 babies in Kansas is quite acceptable.
For those who do not bother to vote, do you realize that the founders believed that voting is so critical that they specified that only citizens have the right to vote in federal elections and to run for federal office? State elections are a different matter.
The election to be held Tuesday is not a federal election, but that does not belie how seriously the signers of the constitution took the right to vote. About 84 percent of Leavenworth County voters do not seem to care about exercising a right granted exclusively to citizens. Whether non-citizens should be able to vote in non-federal elections is another subject.
Some of those running for office may advocate for legislative action to allow only citizens to vote in state elections or sponsor legislation that non-citizens can vote in state elections. The 84 percent would have to figure out what they want and then vote for the candidate that aligns with the voter’s philosophy. Then the person would actually have to obtain an advance ballot or get up and go to the polls.
Apparently, for 84 percent of Leavenworth County registered voters, that is simply too much to do.
There is no answer to the question of how many of the 84 percent are complaining about the ineffectiveness of government, bellyaching about having bums in office, yelling that taxes are too high, grumbling about the condition of sidewalks or criticizing how much or how little is being spent on K-12 education.
Apparently, 84 percent of registered voters have not grasped the fact that one of the two people who get the most votes on Tuesday will be the one who can raise or lower taxes, fix or not fix sidewalks, appropriate more or less money for education, increase or decrease regulations on businesses and decide whether you can own a firearm or have to pay an exorbitant tax for ammunition.
All of the candidates have worked to convince us that he or she is the most capable of addressing our concerns. There have been many opportunities to learn the candidates’ positions. Whether you choose to vote or not, one of them in November is going to be elected to represent you.
Again, I grant that perhaps 1 percent or so of registered voters will have a legitimate reason for not voting. What about the rest of us? What two-bit reason are you going to come up with for not voting?
Get up and go vote.
Rich Kiper is a Leavenworth Times columnist.