California’s Voter Apathy is Shameful

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Fewer than half of California’s registered voters will turn out for today’s mid-term election. That’s the prediction of Jessica Levinson, Director of Political Reform for the Center for Governmental Studies, a non-partisan public policy organization based in Los Angeles.

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Voter apathy here in the nation’s most populous is actually worst than Levinson suggested in her recent remarks to the Christian Science Monitor. Indeed,more than a quarter of California’s 23.5 million voting-aged citizens aren’t even registered to vote, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

That nearly two-thirds of voting-age Californians will not participate in today’s election is disconcerting, if not downright shameful.

California is mired in its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The state government is facing a $12 billion budget deficit next year (after struggling to close a $19 billion budget gap this year).

More than 3 million able-bodied residents are unemployed. Another million or so are underemployed. More than a million former homeowners throughout the state have lost their property to foreclosure.

No one can say that neither they nor anyone they know is unaffected by the great economic crisis engulfing California. So every voting-age resident of this state has a direct or indirect stake in the election. Every eligible voter has a reason to stand – at the ballot box or the mail box – and be counted.

There’s no excuse for apathy this election. It doesn’t matter if a voter is unexcited by the candidates stumping for office. It doesn’t matter if they don’t feel strongly one way or the other about any of the propositions on the ballot.

It does matter who the voters elect today to serve the next four years as their Governor, and the next six years as their junior Senator. It does matter whether the voters legalize marijuana use, suspend global warming mandates, and increase the car tax by $500 million a year.

And if California voters are still apathetic, they should think about the more than 150,000 California residents serving in the nation’s military, defending the rights we all too often take for granted – none more so than the right to vote.

The late great jurist Louis Brandeis famously said, “The most important political office is that of the private citizen.” It’s too bad that most-voting age Californians don’t get that.

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