By all indications, the 2016 presidential election will be another one decided by a narrow margin. In the last four presidential contests, only one was decided by four points or more—and in 2000, Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote but lost narrowly in the Electoral College tally.
Here’s another fairly safe prediction: Many eligible voters will not go to their polling place next Tuesday. This is nothing new: In recent presidential elections, turnout among eligible voters has ranged from 54 percent to 62 percent. The percentages are even lower among voting-age Americans (including people who have not registered, for example), roughly from 50 percent to 57 percent. In 1996, voting-age turnout was 49 percent, lower than at any time since the 1920s.
Among the factors that could dampen turnout this time, two stand out. As always, voters who do not live in a battleground state may believe their vote simply doesn’t count. But even more significant this time is the fact the two major-party candidates are disliked by large portions of the American populace. Indeed, as has been stated repeatedly over many months, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump have negative ratings that are without precedent.
It’s often said that citizens have a duty to vote. That’s not really so; taking part in the political process is a right in this country, not an obligation. Those who choose not to vote are exercising their right to not be heard through the ballot box.
But let’s be clear: This is an expression of their choice to let others decide who will take office in January. And in doing so, they give up the right to complain about the election outcome.
From the health of the economy to homeland defense and the very character of the nation, much is at stake in this year’s presidential election. One of the two major-party candidates will be given the responsibility to lead this country in a time of daunting challenges.
This is the decision facing each voter: Do you want to help decide who that leader will be—or will you leave it to others?
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