Election Day is next Tuesday and it remains to be seen how many registered voters in Pagosa Country, or anywhere in the U.S. for that matter, will cast ballots.
On the national and state levels, voters have been assailed by some of the most reprehensible and vile ad adventures in recent memory. Many of the state political advertising campaigns have been waged by outside interests — non-profit organizations funded by “big money,” foreign money, corporations and individuals — the activity abetted by a recent Supreme Court decision that kicked the door wide open for corporations to produce campaign-related material, much of it anonymously. To many voters, the slick sludge has been too much to wade through, too dark to tolerate, and the cynicism it breeds might be too much to shrug off in time to muster a vote.
The cloud shadows the entire political board. For more than two decades, this desk has monitored local campaigns and at least one of the campaigns this year has been marked by more manipulation, whining, nastiness and mudslinging on the part of the candidates and their supporters than any during the 20-plus-year period. Will this discourage voters from trooping to the polls?
The sad reality is that American political discourse, at all levels, has descended to a woefully low level. Look at the television ads, listen to the talk shows, watch the cable “news” networks, read the letters to the editor: the exchanges have eroded, the dialogue has become short, shrill and partisan. The ability of the average voter to sort through the mess, to get a clear picture of issues and candidates’ opinions, is lessened with each passing day. In many races, the choice is too often one involving selection of the lesser of two evils — with neither candidate standing out for the best reasons. And it makes sense: how many truly qualified, reasonable individuals would want to put up with the process and the increasing number of nasty wingnuts who attach to it?
Still, it is our duty to vote — it is one of the few contributions we make to the society other than payment of taxes (albeit a contribution increasingly weakened by the lack of meaningful campaign finance reform).
There are currently 9,302 voters registered in Archuleta County. There were 3,321 mail-in ballots sent out for this election. As of Wednesday, 1,402 of those ballots had been returned.
As of Wednesday morning, 395 people had voted early at the Election Office at the county courthouse.
As of Wednesday morning, 7,505 registered voters had yet to make a move in this election.
How many will vote early by 4 p.m. Friday? How many will return mail-in ballots or show up at the polls Nov. 2?
Two years ago, there was general excitement regarding the elections, produced in large part by a presidential race. Television news touts report a large measure of excitement in the air about this election among Republicans, but will voters of all stripes get off the couch and do their civic duty next week?
It is imperative they do.
And, more important, as stated here many times, it is critical that younger voters participate in the process. When citizens 35 years old and younger bow out of the election process and fail to cast votes, they cede their futures to the older members of the community who understand the value of participation and regularly show up at the polls. The candidates elected now, the decisions made regarding crucial ballot issues, will have consequences that far outlast that older bloc of voters.
So, the day approaches. Hold your nose if you must, but turn out, and vote.