John Grant: If you care about America, get involved in the upcoming elections

In a recent one-vote margin, the United States Supreme Court ruled on the validity of prayer before public meetings. It was a highly contentious issue and brought immediate comments from both sides of the issue.

Regardless of where one sides on the issue, the fact is that the court is deeply and narrowly divided. So is the country.

This decision was yet another one decided by a single vote margin. As the justices age and vacancies occur, the nomination of the President and confirmation of the Senate will determine who sits on the court. It matters greatly who occupies the Oval Office and who sits in every seat of the Senate.

And it is not just on the court. Every vote counts. American history is replete with elections won by one or by a handful of votes.

Many potential voters are not even registered. In a big election if half of the registered voters cast a ballot, it is considered a big turnout, and half plus one of those voting can determine the outcome of any election from the school house to the White House.

Unfortunately, it appears that interest in politics is waning to an all-time low. There seems to be more interest in the recent NFL draft than in the mid-term elections.

Democracy depends on people taking part. If citizens don’t bother to vote, if they are prepared to leave public matters to others, if they don’t bother to find out about issues, or if they just complain, then democracy won’t survive and ultimately their rights will be weakened or lost.

A majority of U.S. registered voters, 53 percent, say they are less enthusiastic about voting than in previous elections, while 35 percent are more enthusiastic, according to a recent Gallup poll. This 18-point enthusiasm deficit is larger than what Gallup has measured in prior midterm election years, particularly in 2010 when there was record midterm enthusiasm.

Among registered voters, 42 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting, while 50 percent are less enthusiastic, resulting in an eight-point enthusiasm deficit. But Democrats are even less enthusiastic, with a 23-point deficit.

Typically, the party whose supporters have an advantage in enthusiasm has done better in midterm elections.

A separate measure, one that historically has been predictive of turnout, asks Americans how much thought they have given to the election. Currently, 26 percent of Americans say they have given “quite a lot” or “some” thought to this year’s midterm elections, much lower than Gallup’s initial measurement in 2010.

Not surprisingly, Americans usually give more thought to the election as it draws near — but in midterm election years, that typically has represented only about half of the public right before the election. The lower level of engagement at this point compared with similar points in prior years may indicate that overall turnout will be lower than in the last two midterm election years.

Currently, 37 percent of Republicans say they have given at least some thought to the election, compared with 24 percent of Democrats. Republicans’ scores on this measure almost always exceed those for Democrats, so the size of the advantage is what matters for predicted turnout.

The 13-point Republican advantage in is slightly smaller than the 2010 average of 15, but larger than the 2006 and 2002 averages of two and four points, respectively. That suggests Republicans may enjoy an above-average advantage in turnout this year, although perhaps not as significant as in 2010.

The 2014 mid-term elections are incredibly important for the future of the country. The big Senate turnover of 2008 comes up for re-election this year. The House appears to be safely in GOP hands after the election, but the battle is in the Senate. If the GOP captures six additional seats, the Republicans will control that chamber.

These mid-term elections have high stakes and the presidential race of 2016 even higher ones. Voter turnout is crucial, no matter which side one is on.

I have more respect for those I disagree with who get involved than I do with those with whom I agree and choose to sit on the sidelines and complain.

Are you serious about the future of America? Do you want to have a say? If so, now is the time to get involved. The election is a mere five months away and a lot needs to be done between now and then. Let’s make sure we all do our part.

That’s My Opinion and I am sticking to it.

John Grant is a political columnist who served 21 years in the Florida Legislature. He can be reached at [email protected] Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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