On my 18th birthday I was seeing Alice Cooper at the Pepsi Grandstand at the Missouri State Fair. Just a few days later I would register to vote in the State of Missouri. I was always that teenager that was excited about voting as soon as I was able. I was mostly enthusiastic about presidential elections, but I try to show up whenever there’s something to vote on.
Even at a young age I had strong opinions about who should lead the country. I considered it my duty to vote, and to report for jury duty. They haven’t called me yet for that particular duty, but they did warn me one summer that it could happen.
In the modern age American voter turnout for presidential elections hovers around the mid-to-late 50th percentile. Just over half of the eligible voting public is making all of our decisions. Most of the time at around 40 percent of the country is merely along for the ride, forced to deal with the decisions made by other people.
I could never sit by and let all the votes be cast by people who aren’t’t me. I’ve got to be part of it, I’ve got input too. I want to vote on which way we turn the wheel, rather than sitting in the back and hoping that everybody else has a reasonable destination in mind.
So here’s the message that I’m delivering to you: collectively we need to care more about the decisions that are being made by a vote of the people and those of you who are eligible to vote but aren’t registered really should consider it.
Yeah, voting can be a chore especially when there are certain politicians in Missouri and elsewhere who are working every day to make it harder and less accessible. And jury duty always seems to roll around at the most inopportune time but if that’s really the tipping point just know that many different strongly held and perfectly sincere beliefs can lead to almost instant dismissal from voir dire. The chances of you serving even one day of jury duty are low – but even if it does happen, your boss has to give you the time off, you’re going to be paid for your civic service and reimbursed for your travel.
Plus, you might be the person who notices something that frees an innocent man, or convicts a guilty one. You could show the other jurors what it’s like to live 12 Angry Men in real time.
We need to make it easier to vote via mail here in the state of Missouri. In the future I’d like to see a mechanism for casting your ballot over the internet. Of course, making sure that the connection is secure enough and confirming the identity of the internet voter might be difficult, but we can and should do it. We should do whatever we can to get the people to vote.
And we’re making progress right here in the Show-Me State – potential voters can now register via the internet at http://www.registermissouri.org for the first time ever. It’s not perfect though, it looks like they’re expecting you to maintain a reasonable signature by way of the computer mouse or touchpad.
Actually I think the country at large should introduce an opt-out voting system rather than an opt-in. It would work like this: upon their 18th birthday, every citizen in good standing is registered to vote automatically. If for some reason they definitely don’t want to be a voter then they can remove themselves via a de-resgistration process. Or they could just stay on the rolls and not vote, or they could just vote for things they really care about. I think it would increase voter turnout, because I think a lot of the reluctance is based on not wanting to fill out all of the registration paperwork. (Even though it’s not really that bad.)
Come on everybody, go out and register to vote – or stay in and register to vote. The country’s important decisions need your input!
Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.