High turnout good for democracy

Minnesotans can be proud their state was the national leader in voter participation.

In the wake of the presidential election, no one is quite sure if our country will remain as divided as it was before the votes were cast. But whether voters are cheering for “Dubya,” starting the emigration process or grudgingly shaking hands with their political nemeses, one thing held the states together this year: unprecedented voter turnout at the polls. Minnesotans can be proud their state was the national leader in that effort.

Approximately 120 million voters – almost 60 percent of those eligible – turned out across the country Nov. 2. Minnesota topped the bill with 77.3 percent of eligible voters casting ballots – the highest percentage in the nation and the state’s highest since 1956.

That’s pretty impressive. Surely, we can in part thank Minnesota’s same-day voter registration for this figure: Allowing residents to register on the day of the election leaves little excuse for not voting. A prospective voter only needs to bring a photo ID and a utility bill with his or her current address to the polling place on Election Day – and for students, a student ID and a registered voter to vouch for residency works, too.

We can also thank our efficient, well-trained and fair election judges for running a smooth election. Hard-working men and women from all walks of life spent long hours making sure votes cast in Minnesota were fair and legitimate. With a record voter turnout, these people had their work cut out for them.

Finally, we can thank Minnesotans for being so dedicated to democracy. In some countries, such as Australia, citizens have a legal mandate to vote. Perhaps it is better here, because forcing people to vote seems like a poor idea. Either way, Minnesotans can be proud they were informed and performed their civic duty.

For those who didn’t vote in this election, it’s time to figure out why. Did you not feel informed about the candidates? Did you not care who was elected? Did you not know where to go? Or was it just a good old case of forgetfulness, or worse, laziness?

Whatever the case, take this opportunity to learn who your lawmakers are and how you can feel more personally involved in what they do and who they are.