By Sen. Mike Crapo
Chances are you've heard this message from the time you were
in school. One of our most cherished rights is the right to
vote. What a wonderful opportunity the freedom to select
the people who make decisions that affect virtually all aspects
of our daily life and our future. This is really what democracy
and America are all about the freedom and the fundamental
right to have a say in your future.
Understanding this, it is somewhat astonishing to know that
many, many, Americans regularly abdicate their right to vote.
In the last presidential election, only 51 percent of Americans
of voting age actually voted.
That means that 51 percent of the population, barely a simple
majority, elected the President of the United States, arguably
the most powerful individual in the world. According to the
Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, a non-partisan
organization that monitors citizen engagement in politics,
only 53 percent of eligible voters in Idaho voted in the 2000
presidential election. Voter turnout for other elections continues
to be similarly dismal.
According to the Idaho Office of the Secretary of State,
the general elections in 2002 brought out only 44 percent
of voters who were of eligible voting age in Idaho.
Why do so many Idahoans decide not to vote? I've heard the
statement made that "my vote doesn't count," a statement
that, I might add, is simply not true. The most obvious example
is the 2000 presidential race, but there are many more instances
of local, state, and national races that have been decided
by just a handful of votes, including the 1984 contest in
Idaho between George Hansen and Richard Stallings.
Over the course of our history, both women and minorities
have invested significant time and energy and endured personal
sacrifice to secure the right to vote. Many men and women
have given their lives to preserve this right which is a key
component of democracy. These facts make it incumbent upon
all of us who are citizens and of legal voting age to do so.
Ironically, our newest Americans, immigrants who become citizens,
repeatedly emphasize that the right to vote is one of the
greatest privileges they've earned in becoming United States'
A number of organizations are making it easier to register
to vote. The Idaho Secretary of State Division has a form
online that people can print out and mail to their county
You can also call your county courthouse for voter registration
information. The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project
(SVREP) offers online voter registration with an option for
instructions in Spanish at
Some counties in Idaho feature online voter registration
as well. The Republican National Committee is sponsoring a
voter registration tractor-trailer, called "Reggie the
Registration Rig" that is traveling the country to register
voters until Election Day 2004. This 18-wheeler is equipped
with a sound stage, multi-media capabilities, and even X Boxes.
(For information about where "Reggie" will be over
the next 7 months, access the following website: http://www.gopteamleader.com/reggie/)
The Democratic National Committee features online voter registration
at the following website: https://electionimpact.votenet.com/dnc/
All the voter registration efforts in the country are useless
unless people do two things: 1) take advantage of these opportunities
to register, and 2) VOTE on Election Day. It is my sincere
hope that each eligible voter in Idaho, and across America,
takes a few minutes out of their day to do their civic duty
on May 25 and again on Nov. 2.
Our country is only as strong as its participating citizenry
and elected officials. Our founding fathers were convinced,
as am I, that a strong America is one that reflects the feelings
and opinions of all of her citizens, not just 51 percent.
Your vote does count.