La Plata County voters are responding to current events in a healthy fashion. Whether the goal is to preserve what is good or to change what is not, the most profound power in this country is to vote.
Voting not only determines the outcome of elections, it is itself a reaffirmation of democracy and an honest expression of patriotism. Moreover, voting’s effects ripple far after individual races are forgotten.
La Plata County voters seem to get that. That 41% of active voters cast ballots Tuesday may not seem like much – after all, that means 59% could not be bothered. But for a primary election it is, as County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Lee put it, “a great turnout.”
Voter turnout is greatest in presidential elections, with other general elections coming in second and primaries typically a distant third. That reflects the fact that the voters, like much of the national media, tend to treat presidential elections as playoff games. It is also why non-presidential national elections are typically referred to as off-year or midterm elections.
But as sports fans understand, sparsely attended games in the early season are how teams get to the playoffs. And in the process, those early games are how the teams are sorted out.
Seemingly inconsequential votes have a similar influence. The U.S. Supreme Court has recently handed down several controversial rulings on guns, abortion and prayer. And much has been made of the fact that Donald Trump appointed three of the justices in the majority in those cases.
But the truth is less dramatic and more important. The real power in choosing those justices was not Trump but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He manipulated the process both to deny President Barack Obama a high-court appointee and to ensure Senate approval of Trump’s nominees.
And who gave McConnell such power? One answer is the voters of Kentucky, who elected him to the Senate in 1985 and have kept him there ever since. But also look to the voters who elected the other Republican senators who made him their leader.
Moreover, Supreme Court justices are not picked at random. While there is no requirement for previous judicial experience, in recent years most have been lower court judges. Who appointed them and who elected those people?
The cases before the high court also do not just appear. Some result from acts of Congress, while many stem from state laws. The recent abortion case was specifically crafted by the Mississippi state Legislature to bring Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court.
Those lawmakers’ elections are too-often dismissed as “down-ballot” races. But never think they are insignificant. Most have a more direct affect on our everyday lives than any president and, at least indirectly, many have greater, longer influence.
Supreme Court rulings also are not bolts of lightning. They do no come out of the sky. It may take years, even decades, but – right or wrong – the Supreme Court reflects the voters.
Use that power wisely – and vote.