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Today, I would like to talk about the essence of our democracy which is our right as citizens to vote.
Voting is a responsibility that we all share whether we are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Independent.
There is no other way more direct and meaningful than voicing your opinion through voting, and the people we put in place with our votes are representing both us and our ideas.
An important principal to improve voting is the expansion of voting opportunities. Increasing participation at the polls is the only way we can have a true representation of our opinions.
On July 1, 1971, the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution lowered the voting age to 18. Prior to this change, I could not vote until I turned 21. My first time getting to vote was for the 1972 race for Arkansas Governor between Len Blaylock and former Governor Dale Bumpers. Just 14 years later in 1986, my first time running for a statewide public office matched me up against the same Dale Bumpers who was running for the U.S. Senate.
In the 2018 midterm elections, there was a voter turnout of just 41%. In the 2020 general election, Arkansas had a voter turnout of 56%. This means that Arkansas has a lot of room to increase the percent of Arkansans who vote.
Right now, nearly half of our eligible voters either believe their vote doesn’t matter or they believe they are just too busy to vote. It is critical that we increase trust in our electoral process.
Trust in the vote starts with the integrity of the ballot, which is a critical element to keeping our democracy strong and fair. We want people to have increased access to vote, but we also must assure the identity of the voter and be assured that each voter only votes once. That is the essence of democracy.
This week, the polls opened up for early voting in a pivotal election for Arkansas. At this point, the early voting numbers are encouraging. We get to vote on U.S. Senate seats, legislative seats, local races, and even for the next Governor of Arkansas.
It is also a time to vote on issues that the legislature has referred to the people and others that are on the ballot because of the initiative process. These issues will determine Arkansas’s future, so please learn about them, and decide for yourself the direction we should go.
Voting is the best way we can assure that the government is a true reflection of the public’s voice. Please take the time to go out and voice your opinion by voting now.
Early voting has started, and you can learn from your county clerk the easiest way for you to vote.