Troubling drop in local turnout for primary

Turnout for Tuesday’s primary election in Marquette County was slightly lower than last year’s primary.

About 28.22 percent of voters cast their ballots in Marquette County, a small decrease from the 28.76 percent turnout in last year’s primary.

The Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday 2 million votes were cast in Michigan, and based on still incomplete and unofficial election returns, it appears voter turnout was close to 28 percent. This turnout, according to the Free Press, shattered records going back at least as far as 1978, a state election official confirmed.

Based on data from the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office, the most people to vote in any Michigan primary — midterm or presidential — since 1978, was the 1,722,869 people who voted in the 2002 gubernatorial primary, the Free Press article stated. While we are glad that the numbers seem to be going in the right direction, and we understand that primary elections tend to have lower numbers — we still don’t feel this is even close to enough.

A recent article by the Pew Research Center illustrated that the U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout. The Census Bureau estimated that there were 245.5 million Americans ages 18 and older in November 2016, about 157.6 million of whom reported being registered to vote. (While political scientists typically define turnout as votes cast divided by the number of eligible voters, in practice turnout calculations usually are based on the estimated voting-age population, or VAP.) Just over 137.5 million people told the census they voted in 2016, somewhat higher than the actual number of votes tallied — nearly 136.8 million, according to figures compiled by the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, though that figure includes more than 170,000 blank, spoiled or otherwise null ballots.

The 55.7 percent VAP turnout in 2016 puts the U.S. behind most of its peers in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, most of whose members are highly developed, democratic states, according to the Pew article. Looking at the most recent nationwide election in each OECD nation, the U.S. placed 26th out of 32.

Given, some of these countries have compulsory voting — laws which require eligible citizens to register and vote in national and/or local elections — which can have a strong influence, even if they aren’t strictly enforced. There are some who believe the U.S. should have compulsory voting; we simply believe that our citizens should care enough to get out there and make their voices heard. As it has so often been said — if you don’t vote, then you can’t complain. However, there seems to be a lot of complaining going on, and we’re willing to bet that many of the folks doing so didn’t show up to cast their vote on Tuesday. Well, you will have another opportunity in November — don’t let it pass you by.