ITD News
Associated Press
News Link

Some people would die for the privilege to vote

By Sen. Mike Crapo
Guest opinion

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' citizens.

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 at 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: The Democratic National Committee features online voter registration at the following website:

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.