Will patriotism result in higher voter turnout?

“America is a land where a citizen will cross the ocean to fight for democracy — and won’t cross the street to vote in a national election.” — Bill Vaughan, American journalist (1915-1977)

The horrific terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 have united the country and produced a sense of patriotism the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Second World War.
You can’t go anywhere these days without seeing a myriad American flags and other signs of national pride. Citizens are also supporting American troops in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban regime and the al-Qaida network, as well as the nation’s overall war against terrorism.
Hopefully this renewed sense of patriotism will translate into improved voter turnout during tomorrow’s Election Day.
For whatever reasons, voter turnout in the United States has been in a steep decline for about 40 years. Statistics on recent elections are not encouraging, to say the least.
Less than half the voting age population showed up at the 1996 presidential election, marking the first time voter turnout dipped below 50 percent in 30 years. This was the lowest turnout since 1924 and the second lowest since 1824.
Mid-term elections (and off-year state and local elections) have even lower rates. Congressional elections have hovered around the mid-30 percent range sine 1970. In 1998, 38 percent turned out to vote.
During last year’s presidential election – the closest in history – only 50.7 percent of eligible voters came to the polls.
Washington state’s voter turnout during the 2000 presidential election was 59 percent.
These days, many people have come to regard voting as the act of choosing between the “lesser of two evils,” as the saying goes, and so they don’t cast a ballot.
We would all do well to remember that, in light of the terrorist attacks, an unappealing choice should not be considered “evil,” and is certainly better than no choice at all. In freedom-loving nations there is also the prospect for more and better choices in the future.
Tomorrow, do something the people in Afghanistan – and many other countries around the world – cannot do: Let your voice be heard. Vote.