Years ago my wife found a recipe for a ham casserole online that looked good in the photos and had an even better rating from those who prepared, cooked, and served it.
Seconds after her first bite, my wife warned me that it was “horrible.”
Not wanting to offend her, I forced down my first bite and suggested that the ham casserole was “actually pretty good."
Signs and volunteers outside of St. Clement Community Center in the Washington Local School District in Toledo on November 7.
I soldiered on through that meal and beyond, until the second day of ham casserole leftovers, when my taste buds and stomach couldn't take it anymore.
The “crappy ham casserole,” as we now refer to it, “is terrible,” I told my wife. It has never appeared on our dining table again.
It turns out that my crappy ham casserole experience is a lot like voting.
I didn’t like the meal, which meant my choices were A.) to suffer in silence and eat crappy ham casserole for years and years; or B.) to speak out: “If you love me, you won’t make this again.”
Voting, like crappy ham casserole, is our opportunity to speak up and be heard about things we like and don't like: those people, policies, and ideological directions who/that determine what happens in our neighborhood, city, county, state, and country.
And in Tuesday’s general election, only 30 percent of registered Lucas County voters chose to do that. (The good news: That 30 percent is a slight improvement over the 26 percent of registered Lucas Country voters who showed up at the polls for the Nov. 5, 2013, general election. Congrats to those additional 4 percent of voters!)
The splashier, sexier presidential elections, as one expects, bring out more voters. The 2016 primaries saw nearly 39 percent of Lucas County’s registered voters cast their ballots, and for the 2016 presidential election that number jumped to 68 percent.
As wonderful as a 68 percent voter turnout is, why not 90 percent or even higher?
The act of voting, after all, is almost as easy as not voting.
In fact, David Jackson, professor of political science at Bowling Green State University, described voting as “sort of the original ‘slacktivism,’" which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a type of activism (such as signing an online petition) that requires very little commitment or action.”
I can attest to that; it took me about 15 minutes to drive to my local polling place, vote, and return to my car. That’s not a commitment, but a slight detour in my normal morning routine. In fact, we’ve all stood in line much longer for movies, restaurants, and when shopping than it took me to vote.
So why isn’t every eligible voter participating?
As part of his answer, Jackson noted a new-ish philosophy, particularly among but not exclusive to Millennials, about working for a cause and/or toward a solution, rather than voting for someone campaigning to do that for you. In other words, I would start a recycle program instead of casting a ballot in favor of a candidate who promises to implement a recycle program.
My response to Jackson: “Why not do both?”
He agreed. “The cost of voting is really low” in terms of someone’s time and effort. “We don’t have poll taxes, and they have to be given time off of work to vote.”
Then there’s that classic rebuke of a citizen’s duty to democracy: “My vote doesn't make a difference.” Those voting naysayers are right, except when they’re not.
For Toledo City Council, where the top six vote-getters on Tuesday won seats, incumbent Larry J. Sykes finished in sixth place with 19,961 votes compared to Harvey Savage Jr.’s seventh-place finish with 18,423 votes. That’s a difference of only 1,538 votes.
And let's not forget the “hanging chads” of the 2000 presidential election and the 537 vote margin they provided that gave candidate George W. Bush the state of Florida, the Electoral College, and the presidency.
So, yes, making your voice heard does make a difference.
As the old saying goes, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”
Which is why I’ll happily never see a plate of crappy ham casserole again.
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