Michael Stoll: If you don’t vote, don’t complain

Published 7:06 am Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Another primary election day is upon us. It is a day when eager candidates and their supporters await with bated breath the final poll results which will determine if they will go on to the general election or if their hopes for political office will come to an end.

Today, three Austin City Council seats and two Mower County offices are on the ballot in an effort to narrow down the candidate field. Minnesotans across the state will also vote on several state offices, congressional offices, and not one, but two, U.S. Senate seats, a rare occurrence.

But the question that is on the mind of many a political analyst is how many voters will actually turn up to the polls for this primary election.

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According to the Pew Research Center, 57.6 million people voted across the country in the 2016 primaries. That may seem like a large number, but that was only 28 ½ percent of registered voters in 2016.

Minnesotans voted in record numbers in the 2016 general election, with roughly 81 percent of registered voters casting a ballot. In contrast, only 294,797, or 7.43 percent of eligible voters, voted in the 2016 primary, according to the Pioneer Press. It was the lowest turnout for a primary election in the state since 1950.

If you’re like me, you had friends on both sides of the political spectrum who did not vote in the primary, but complained bitterly about the nominations of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And, of course, when asked why they didn’t bother to vote, they gave the typical answer of, “Because they had the momentum and one vote doesn’t make a difference.”

I wonder how many millions of registered voters across the nation told themselves the same thing during the 2016 primary election?

I’ve also heard excuses about not voting in primaries for local elections. Usually they are along the lines of “Who cares?”

Considering that local candidates have a more direct impact on your life than any other office holder (and you have a greater impact in a local election than any other type of election), you should care.

You know that tax levy that goes up every now and then? That’s because the council’s budget calls for it. You know that permit you have to get to build on your property? That’s because the city and county have zoning laws and ordinances that specify what you can and can’t build. You know why that street by your house is closed? It’s because the council voted for the city’s recommendation to fix it.

You know those articles about what the council and county board are doing; the ones where you leave comments complaining about what’s going on, but don’t actually care enough to show up to the meetings and address them about your concerns?

Well, at least you can do something by voting.

“But, I don’t like any of the candidates, I don’t have time, I’m not going to be in town, I don’t know where to go, blah blah blah.”

The truth is, no matter what your excuse, you really don’t have an excuse for not voting. Polls are open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m., meaning you have ample time even if you work full-time. Absentee voting has been available for a while, so you can’t use the excuse of not being in the precinct on Election Day. If you don’t know about a candidate, you can find information on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website. If you don’t know where to vote, see page 1.

Go out and do your civic duty.

If you don’t vote, you have no reason to complain.