The Massachusetts primary election is Tuesday, September 9. If past practice provides any indication of future behavior, only a small percentage of eligible Martha’s Vineyard voters will take the time to cast a vote in next week’s election, which features seven contests and will set the stage for important races at the state level that include the offices of governor, treasurer, and attorney general.
That lack of participation is unfortunate. Election day is the one day every citizen stands equal with the next, irrespective of his or her station in life, and walks into the polling place and casts only one vote.
Excuses abound. In Massachusetts, a state dominated by career politicians, voters may say that one vote does not matter. It is a view that guarantees more of the same.
The same citizen who rails at his or her flat-screen television screen during a news broadcast finds it too much trouble to go to the polls once every two years and fulfill an exercise in civic responsibility that takes less time than he or she is willing to spend to pick up a pizza on a Friday night. Walk in, provide your name, take a ballot and make your choices. It is that easy.
Yet, judging by the number of voters that participated in the 2010 primary, about three out of four registered Island voters thought it was too much trouble to go to the polls.
By town, the numbers looked like this: Chilmark (26.4 percent); West Tisbury (22.2); Tisbury (21.2); Oak Bluffs (19.3); Edgartown (17.9); and Aquinnah (16.6 percent).
In the 2012 election the percentage of voters who went to the polls ranged from a low of 11.9 percent of voters in Edgartown to a high of 19 percent in Chilmark.
Islanders tend to be a self-satisfied bunch. The word “special” gets tossed around a lot by publicists of everything Vineyard. Well, a voter turnout of less than 25 percent is not so special among a pretty well educated electorate. In fact, it is cause for embarrassment, particularly when set against the world stage where the struggle for basic human liberties continues, and the simple act of walking into a polling station takes courage in many countries
While the outcome of next week’s election is important, irrespective of the nature of the contest, each citizen’s willingness to exercise his or her right to vote is a statement.
Our right as U.S. citizens to vote was hard won, paid for in blood and treasure. It remains the bedrock of our democracy and we owe it those who have defended that right to exercise it, and to vote Tuesday, if for no other reason than to honor their sacrifice and do our civic duty.
Back to school
The new school year begins this week with a total K-12 enrollment of 2,278 students. In this week’s issue, at the invitation of The Times, Island school principals briefly describe the changes students and parents can expect and their goals for the school year. The essays differ but all share a sense of optimism and energy.
Once again, school buses are a familiar sight on Island roads. Children, often accompanied by parents are walking or biking to school. It is time to exercise caution driving and enjoy the sound of kids playing in school yards that lay dormant all summer.