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COMMENTARY
voting
Voters exit the Oklahoma County Election Board on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. Polls will be open Tuesday, Nov. 6, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. statewide. (William W. Savage III)

Election Day is one of the most solemn and important days on my calendar. For 60 years, I have been an American voter, and there is no prouder or more humbling moment than to stand before a ballot box and express my voice with respect to the future of this great country.

Voting is your voice in America. When you don’t vote, you silence yourself, and you allow someone else to speak for you. It is critical that Americans understand that freedom is not free — it was hard-fought, hard-won and came at a significant cost. Americans through the centuries have fought for your voice. In mud-soaked uniforms on foreign lands, in petticoats along picket lines, under the violent baton of protest, in the eloquent prose of printer’s ink, behind the patient posture of sit-ins, beneath the gavel of legal arguments and the persuasive language of transformative debates: Our ancestors forged our voting rights.

When you don’t vote, you dishonor these sacrifices.

No one can hear your silence

Voting is visceral in America and may be associated with gut-wrenching decisions and weighty choices. The collective outcomes shape the forward path for platforms within this country. From the U.S. president to local school board members, there are no small elections. Each vote is important, timely and relative to America’s judicial system.

It does not matter if you are disillusioned with Congress, the Legislature, the governor, the president, the rich, the poor, the Electoral College or even the Constitution. No one can hear your silence. Every vote counts, no matter if you’re a Democrat in a red state, a Republican in a blue state or an independent with no party affiliation — your vote counts even if you merely seek to cancel out your mother-in-law’s vote each year.

Americans exhibit dismal voter participation

The United States has one of the lowest voter-turnout rates in the industrialized world. We are ninth from the bottom. In 1876, 83 percent of Americans voted when Democrat Samuel Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes squared off in an Electoral College squeaker. In our past two presidential elections, however, only 60 percent of the electorate voted. In a midterm-election season, America can typically muster a little over 35 percent of participating voters. Moreover, 51 million eligible voters are not even registered.

Luckily, technology offers new options to increase voter participation, such as easy early voting processes and digital voter registration in some states.

What’s your motivation?

What will get you to the polls this year? Frustration, ideas, values, issues or personalities? Only voters win elections — everyone else is a bystander.

Voting is your voice. Let your voice be heard!