On Tuesday, Kentucky voters will have the opportunity to pick the next governor and lieutenant governor who will lead our state from 2016 to 2020. Races for attorney general, commissioner of agriculture, secretary of state, treasurer and state auditor also are on the ballot.
Judging from recent history, unfortunately we can predict that a select few will take this opportunity.
Apathy has been chipping away at voter turnout for several years — and locally it is especially discouraging to see how many people fail to cast a ballot. Last spring in the primaries, only 6.74 percent of the county’s registered voters bothered to go to the polls or submit an absentee ballot. That number earned Christian County the embarrassing distinction of lowest turnout in the state.
We’d like to believe that an increase in voter registration points to some renewed interest in elections. A story reported in today’s paper by New Era Staff Writer Rebecca Walter shows the number of registered voters in Christian County’s increased by nearly 6 percent in the past 18 months and now stands at 43,372. Surrounding counties also recorded increases — 3.1 percent in Trigg and 1.6 in Todd.
Considering how many people have been blocked from voting during our country’s history, and the political battles that were fought to guarantee all citizens can now cast ballots, it is amazing that so many do not exercise their right.
When the U.S. Constitution was written, the right to vote was limited to white male landowners. The land requirement was not lifted until 1850.
The 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, gave African-Americans the vote. However, poll taxes, literacy tests and other discriminatory practices during the South’s Jim Crow era made it difficult or impossible for many blacks to even register to vote. It took almost another century before Congress adopted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to strike down racist state policies that kept blacks from the polls.
Women fought for decades to earn the right to vote. A national convention in 1848, at Seneca Falls, New York, launched the suffrage movement, but the 19th Amendment was not ratified until 1920.
Despite the lessons of history and the long, difficult fight to participate in our country’s elections, it seems voting today is treated like a chore.
History shows we should not take voting for granted. We should treat it as a civic duty.
Don’t sit out this election. The polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. Nov. 3. Vote.
Kentucky New Era, Hopkinsville