Don’t kid yourself, your vote is important


Fran Ostendorf, EditorOn Sept. 9, Rhode Islanders go to the polls to vote in the 2014 primary. You’d have to be living under a rock, or outside the state, to not know this. If you are part of our circulation in Massachusetts or elsewhere, hang on. I promise this column’s for you too. Anyway, between the lawn signs and the media ads you can’t miss the fact that there’s an election coming up in Rhode Island.

I hope you aren’t too tired of the coverage yet, because we’ve got a little coverage too in the back pages of our paper. We have got some statements and answers to questions by a few of the candidates. See pages 27-32 for more details on that.

But I want to discuss the general issue of voting, something I think is important no matter where you live. Americans don’t vote that much, especially in primaries. And Rhode Island has a lower primary voting rate than many states. In fact, in 2012, the turnout rate in Rhode Island for the presidential primary was just 3 percent, according to George Mason University’s Election Project. That’s just 3 percent of all eligible voters. In that same election, the voter turnout in Massachusetts was 11.9 percent. Not great, either.

Voting is an important right we have in the United States. And it’s one of our freedoms that I hope everyone will take advantage of on primary day, Sept. 9.

Think about all the countries where we see photos of voting day violence, fingerprinting and reports of citizens denied the ability to vote. In other countries, where voting is a new privilege, people come out in droves despite real threats to their lives.

But some take voting for granted and remain nonchalant. Can’t get to the polls? Oh well. Working too late? Never mind. And if you don’t like any of the candidates? Seems easy enough to walk away.

But when you put the privilege to vote in perspective, that should never happen. Many of the problems around the world start with countries where voting and a peaceful transition in government has yet to be achieved. Your vote is precious. Not to be wasted. So make sure you vote. And make it a lesson for your kids, too. As soon as my kids turned 18, they went and registered to vote. They couldn’t believe that many of their friends didn’t care. That’s how we reared them. And that’s what I was taught.

So before you complain about another election and being bombarded with information, consider the alternative. Then go out and vote.