I can’t help wondering if there are times when being the best is an achievement worth celebrating.
A recent Star Tribune editorial congratulated Minnesotans for being first in the nation in voter turnout.
I concede that this is an accomplishment, and, let’s face it, it’s better to be first in voter turnout than last.
My question is, is 74.7 percent worth getting excited about?
It should be noted some of our local municipalities experienced voter turnout numbers that are significantly higher than the state and national averages, and those communities should be congratulated.
If we look at 74.7 percent in terms of letter grades, I suspect it would equate to a “C.”
I don’t know about other students, but I never ran home in a flurry of excitement to tell my parents I got a “C.”
Voter turnout is a weird thing.
One of the very few responsibilities of citizens in this country is to turn out every couple years and vote for the people who will represent them.
Too many people can’t even be bothered to do that.
Nationally, the picture is even bleaker than it is in Minnesota.
The national average of 58.1 percent voter turnout means more than four people out of every 10 don’t bother to vote.
That is sad.
Minnesota’s voter turnout is definitely better than the national average, but it is a bit like a thoroughbred at the top of his form winning a race in which all of his competitors are lame old cripples who can barely make it around the track.
Some people say a win is a win, but I say it means more when competing against real competition.
If a trained athlete were to win a triathlon against a field of gray-haired grannies and granddads who can barely get out of their chairs, it would be a victory, but it wouldn’t be much of a victory.
All I’m saying is that, while it’s nice to be first in voter turnout, we should be setting the bar higher.
New measures to make voting easier and more convenient, while maintaining accuracy and accountability, can help increase participation.
For example, due to changes in the absentee voting rules, more than 674,000 Minnesotans voted early in this election, compared to 235,808 in 2012.
As long as it is possible to maintain the integrity of the vote, it is worth exploring new options.
I’m afraid some people may be beyond hope.
If people are too lazy or two apathetic to take a few minutes to discharge their duty as citizens, it’s unlikely any improvement in convenience will convince them to change.
There may be others, however, who may be swayed.
The more people who are engaged in the process and participate in the system, the stronger the country will be.
We’ll still have to crack the nut of getting people to make an effort to learn something (fact versus fiction) about the candidates prior to the election.
However, if we can create some meaningful improvements in voter turnout, both in Minnesota and across the country, we’ll be moving in the right direction.