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Editorial: Staying home is a vote, too

“In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some die-hard’s vote.”

— David Foster Wallace

R

owan County election officials predict voter turnout in this year’s elections will be in the low- to mid-40th percentile. Polls were open 10 days for early voting, and they’ll be open Tuesday, Election Day, from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Between all those opportunities and absentee ballots, few people can honestly say they didn’t have time to vote.

So why don’t more people vote?

We can speculate about the reasons nonvoters might give. But the Pew Research Center went beyond what people say and instead looked at who nonvoters are — their demographics.

Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald said the rich are different than you and me, to which Ernest Hemingway is said to have replied, “They have more money.” Pew’s findings suggest nonvoters are different, too. They have more money troubles. They’re younger, more racially diverse, less affluent and less educated. Nearly half — 45 percent — of nonvoters say they have had trouble paying bills in the past year, the Pew study found, compared with 30 percent of likely voters. “Nonvoters are also much more likely than voters to borrow money from family or friends (41 percent vs. 21 percent) and to receive a means-tested government benefit (33 percent vs. 18 percent).”

Pew found one common thread. “Voters and nonvoters are about equally likely to say government is almost always wasteful and inefficient (60 percent among voters, 54 percent among nonvoters),” a Pew report says.

Well, at least we all agree about something.

Voting is complicated stuff. Turnout is highest in presidential election years because everyone knows who the president is, and virtually everyone has an opinion about who should be president. Keeping track of county commissioners, state legislators — even who represents us in Congress — is tougher. And rare are the people outside of legal circles who keep track of all the candidates for appellate courts.

What’s important is to vote what you know, what you have convictions about. Top of mind this year are two key races: the Kay Hagen-Thom Tillis race for U.S. Senate, and the race for the county board of commissioners.

“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote,” writer George Jean Nathan once said. When the results are tallied Tuesday night, will you be glad you cast your ballot — or wishing you had made time to vote?

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