Ken Plum: Voting by default
As close as this year’s presidential election is likely to be in the popular vote, the outcome could be decided by those people who vote by default: they do not bother to vote, allowing the decision to be made by all those who do vote.
Although participation in presidential election years often exceeds three-fourths of eligible voters as contrasted to local and state elections in which more than half of eligible voters do not bother to vote, the outcome of a race where candidates are separated by a few percentage points hinges on voter turnout. For those who conscientiously and regularly vote, the myriad of robo-calls and knocks on the door that come the weekend before the election can be really irritating, but they are necessary to ensure that voters get to the polls.
You can be sure that all campaigns have shifted this week to a strategy of getting out the vote. It is an act of good citizenship to remind others to vote even if the message is not on behalf of any given candidate.
Many safeguards are in place to ensure that elections are run fairly and that the results are correctly reported. As cumbersome as these requirements may seem to some, we should not let them be a barrier to voting. Identification is required at the polls; for most that will mean showing your driver’s license. For others it may mean taking your voter registration card or a utility bill. Be mindful of voters who may be confused because of age or language difficulties by the need for identification and help them through the process. More information can be found at Are You Election Ready? Both parties are likely to have observers at polling places to ensure that voters are treated fairly. Take your children with you to the polls; it is a lesson in good citizenship for them.
As indicated in an earlier column, I will be voting for President Obama and Vice-President Biden, for Tim Kaine for the Senate, and for Gerry Connelly for Congress for the 11th District. I will be voting to support the Fairfax County bond issues and will vote for the Constitutional amendment to change the meeting date for the General Assembly’s reconvened session to eliminate conflicts with religious holidays. I will vote no on the amendment related to eminent domain as I believe it unfairly tips the balance between private and public land rights. I respect however you choose to vote, but please do not vote by default by staying home.
Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.