Editor's note: Guest co-author is Bruce Clark.
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," Edmund Burke
In less than two weeks —Tuesday April 7 — we have an important election for Kankakee County residents. Since this is not a presidential election, mid-term congressional or gubernatorial election, you are not likely (maybe thankfully) hearing those hundreds of on-air commercials.
There are a few signs around our communities and candidate profiles in our papers from time to time. The April 7 consolidated election will feature several important local races, including alderman, village trustees, library board members, board of education and community college members, and some others. Ironically, these elections which tend to have the lowest turnout of any of our elections, might impact your life, as much if not more, than the higher profile state and national elections. Not only are policy decisions made that impact you and your family, but your future taxes and how they are spent are in play.
First, let's look at some of the election turnout numbers. Based on national statistics, years in which there is a presidential election registered voter turnout is about 70 percent, for state elections 49 percent (although Kankakee County voted at 56 percent) and local elections at about 25 percent.
According to a report issued by NonprofitVOTE "America Goes to the Polls," during 2014 mid-term elections, Maine had the best turnout at 58.5 percent. Illinois was in the middle of the pack rated 24th with 40.9 percent. When citizens were asked why they did not vote, 35 percent said they had work/school conflicts; 45 percent indicated that they were too busy, out of town, or just forgot; 20 percent said they did not like the candidates or did not know enough about the issues; and 10 percent forgot to register or had moved recently.
Most of us, probably at one time or another, used one of those reasons for missing a voting opportunity. However, with the polls being open early and late; (polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.); early voting or absentee voting; new technology; and the ability to see the ballot ahead of time, it has never been easier or more convenient to vote.
In purely local elections, where there is only one candidate the turnout figure may fall to as little 10-11 percent, but in a highly contested race the rate may rise to 40 percent. Keep in mind those numbers are based on registered voters, so there are cases where some local public officials are elected to office with less than 10 percent of area citizens involved.
As the legendary speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O'Neill (1977-1987) once said "all politics is local." What he meant is whether you are voting for the president, governor, a state representative or library board member, people vote in the best interest of themselves, their families and local community. With that in mind, we urge you to go to the polls this April 7. If every registered voter reading The Daily Journal would do that and remind at least one family member, friend, or co-worker, we could have a record turnout.
Getting voters to the polls through scolding, guilt or heavy handed persuasion never really works, so we would like to appeal to your sense of honor. By going to the polls you pay honor to our military, the Constitution, elected officials and your family.
Honoring our military members. Tens of millions of American have served in the service both in war and peacetime. One of the most sacred rights they fight for is our democratic right to vote (or frankly not to vote). Over our country's almost 240 year history, more than 1.3 million Americans have died, 1.5 million have been wounded; and over 38,000 are still missing in action.
And of course millions and millions of others and their families have sacrificed 2-4 years or more of their lives to protect us and guarantee our basic freedom. One of the most dramatic reminders of this is the engraved motto, "Freedom is Not Free" at the Korean War Memorial in Washington. If you have no other reason to go to the polls, do it as an act to honor those who have sacrificed so much.
Honor the Constitution and your right to make a difference including complaining. As Americans, it is easy to forget that literally billions of people around the globe do not have the privilege of an honest electoral system. Sometimes the media, politicians and everyday citizens complain that there is so much discord in Washington, Springfield and even occasionally at a local board meeting, city council or school board meeting.
While we must all act respectfully, disagreement is a sign that our democratic system is actually working. Discord will not kill democracy, but apathy might. Democracy is a messy business. Winston Churchill got it right when he said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Honor our awe-inspiring democratic form a government by voting.
Honor those running for office. We all hear about "shyster" politicians and those in it for their own selfish reasons. But the fact is the vast majority of those seeking and serving in public office are honest, honorable people. Many of the offices we are voting in this local election are totally voluntary. Thank goodness we have people of character willing to step up to the plate and serve on our behalf. They spend time attending meetings, learning about the issues and of course listening to us when we whine, complain and occasionally have good suggestions.
When more of us go to the polls, it reinforces the idea that their public service is important. Even in uncontested races, a large number of votes are important. And to be fair to those elected, although you have the right to complain as a non-voter, you have far more credibility as an active voter.
Honor yourself and your family. Every vote does count. No one will forget that less than 600 votes determined the 2000 presidential election. We've had some very close elections in recent years and at the local level even some ties. Keep in mind, voting is not just for yourself. The decisions that are made, impact other citizens and in particular influence children who cannot vote.
Before you pass by the polls on April 7 because you are just too busy, think about your children, grandchildren and others who cannot vote. And we suggest after you vote, hopefully early in the morning, that you proudly wear your "I Voted" sticker. (And now this is just Don speaking — tactfully, but nicely consider shaming others to the polls if that is what it takes.) It is the honorable thing to do. Let's make April 7 a day of honor.
For a preview of the ballot you can visit kankakeecountyclerk.com/wp-content/uploads/2015-Consolidated-Election-N.P.-Publication-full-specimen-ballot.pd