Despite lesson, voter apathy reigns in Mower County

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 17, 2001

How soon we forget the lesson of Nov.

Saturday, March 17, 2001

How soon we forget the lesson of Nov. 7, 2000.

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Let’s turn back the calendar just four short months and remember the events of Nov. 7. It was Election Day in these United States. The country was going to the polls to elect the next president of the United States. A difficult decision faced the country as two solid, but not spectacular candidates squared off.

On the one side was Vice President Al Gore. He was billed as the proven commodity and the one to vote for if one was happy with the direction of the country under the leadership of President Bill Clinton.

On the other side was Texas Gov. George W. Bush. He was billed as the "change" candidate. He was the candidate who would bring an outsiders’ perspective to Washington and would restore dignity to the office of the president.

Americans went to the polls, in less than overwhelming numbers mind you, and cast votes across the country that resulted in a virtual tie between the candidates.

Instead of going to bed on Nov. 7 and knowing who the next president was, Americans went to sleep anticipating by the morning of Nov. 8 a clear winner would emerge.

The morning of Nov. 8 arrived, but a winner did not.

After more than 30 days of courtroom activity in Florida, George W. Bush was finally declared the winner and is now serving his first term as president of the United States.

The lesson talked about for days, weeks and months after the Nov. 7 presidential election was how much weight just one vote carried. If ever there was, or will be, a civics lesson on the importance of voting in a democracy, it was delivered on Nov. 7.

No matter if you were a blue-collar laborer in Detroit, a filmmaker in Los Angeles, or a stockbroker on Wall Street, your vote counted just as much as the next person’s and that vote mattered.

Here in Mower County the lesson of Nov. 7 apparently has been lost on a majority of the registered voters in the county’s Fifth District.

Mower County’s Fifth District is currently in the midst of a campaign battle for the Fifth District commissioner’s seat that was opened when Gary Nemitz retired. Garry Ellingson and Dick Chaffee are seeking the vacant position on the Mower County Board of Commissioners.

However, if the results of a primary election on Feb. 27 are an indication it appears Ellingson, Chaffee, and their respective families and friends may be the only ones aware or who truly care.

In the five-person primary, only 338 of the 4,593 registered voters in the Fifth District turned out to vote. That’s an appalling 7 percent voter turnout.

Registered voters of the Fifth District need to get out and vote on Tuesday, March 20. In this democracy you have a right to express your opinion with a vote. If we fail to exercise the right, we have failed the founders of this country and those that have fought in wars to protect our freedoms. We have simply acquiesced to others we may not agree with.

Too many people complain about the action, or inaction, of government, but do nothing about it. Citizens have many ways to get involved, including voting and attending meetings. Failure to cast a vote eliminates a citizen’s right to criticize and question.

To paraphrase famous Holocaust author Elie Wiesel, the greatest sin is not committing the act, but watching the act being committed and standing idly by.

Fifth District registered voters will have a chance to redeem themselves come Tuesday, March 20, when the final vote will take place to see if Ellingson or Chaffee will take the spot of the Mower County Board of Commissioners. Get out and vote and be the difference.