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Poor voter turnout sends equally poor message

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Even when one considers the less than ideal weather and the dislike that many people have for publicly stating a party preference, the turnout in Tuesday's Illinois primary was disappointing.

That is especially true in Bloomington, where only 27 percent of registered voters went to the polls, and Tazewell County, where the turnout was an abysmal 15.7 percent.

Not a single county in the Pantagraph area could get even half its registered voters to cast a ballot. The best any of them could do was 45 percent in DeWitt County, closely followed by Woodford County with 43 percent.

And these figures are based on just registered voters. They don't count the people who would be eligible to vote but didn't bother to register, even though registering has become easier to do with so-called motor-voter registration at drivers' license facilities and grace period registration.

Likewise, voting has become easier, too. Early voting practically allows you to pick your Election Day and - unlike absentee voting - you don't need to meet special criteria or even give a reason for voting early.

It's amazing how many people complain about not getting a choice in decisions made by government - such as Heartland Community College's campus building expansion - yet they don't exercise that choice when they do have the opportunity.

People are also reading…

It votes on tax increases and contested presidential primaries can't get people off the couch, what can?

Do you think your vote doesn't matter? Consider that the margin for approval to increase the Unit 5 school district's education fund rate was only 507 votes.

But your vote counts for more reasons than just the outcome.

When elected officials see voters turning out in large numbers, it gets their attention. They know voters are watching and willing to act.

When people don't vote, it sends conflicting messages. Are they content with the status quo, disgusted with the whole process or simply lazy?

Voting also sets an example for our children - and for fledgling democracies elsewhere in the world.

Turnout in the general election is always better than the primary, especially in a presidential year.

With the races shaping up for this November, we should see a turnout rivaling the 67 percent of registered voters nationwide who turned out in the 2000 election - a year when people learned how much every vote counts.

If you are not already registered, do so now, and spend the next nine months becoming an informed voter.


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