Last Tuesday, September 14th I went to vote in the primaries. I got to my voting place, the gym at Sherman Elementary School in Warwick, RI and it was empty accept for 2 long lunch tables, some small stands and 2 ballot counting machines on either side of the room. All of the people in the room were poll workers. No voters. It was 8:25pm and polls in RI close at 9:00pm.
I went up to the table for my ward and district and told the woman my name and address. She found my name and gave me a form to sign. She asked if I wanted to vote Democrat or Republican. I answered and she handed me my ballot. I went to the stand behind where she was sitting and voted, while thinking of what I over heard her say to one of her co-workers. She said that turnout was bad. I remember that she said there are over 400 people in our ward, but it seemed as if barely anyone had come in to vote all day.
When I got up to the ballot counting machine to submit my ballot, I looked at the number on the little screen. As I submitted my ballot and the machine accepted it, I saw the number go up from 176 to 177. I thought to myself, I was the 177th person to vote out of over 400! And this woman behind me that came in while I was voting will be the 178th! Out of over 400! With about 30 minuets to go until polls close! Really?
On my short drive home I thought about what the local news had been saying about the expected voter turnout for this primary. They had said that it was expected to be low, but I had never imagined that it was going to be this low. I felt disappointed in my fellow citizens. Even in “just a primary”, how could so many people not want to go speak their mind and be heard. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do as Americans? Wouldn’t that make sense since so many people are unhappy with our government and the state of the economy, especially in RI where the unemployment rate is so high?
On September 23rd, I made a trip to the Board of Canvassers office at city hall to confirm what I already knew: there was a very poor voter turn out for the primaries. Now I got to see just how poor it was. After receiving a Group Detail Summary report from a city clerk working in the office named Joe, I confirmed that out of 60,452 registered voters, only 9,603 voted. That is only 15.89%! A very poor turnout indeed.
In a country that prides itself on Democracy and spreads it across the world, it is surprising how hypocritical a lot of Americans are, even in the city I grew up in. I hear people complain about the government, saying that their unhappy with this or disgusted with that. Then when the opportunity to affect the government and facilitate change presents itself, they don’t vote. Have we forgotten that we have the responsibility as American citizens to affect change when needed? Is it that we are loosing faith in ourselves? I think that this voter turnout issue is maybe the biggest political issue we have, even more so than the economy, immigration, and healthcare. If people don’t care enough to try to change what they are unhappy with, then we are not living in a democracy. On November 2nd, please go vote!