Exercise that right

Published 7:09 am Wednesday, October 29, 2008

By Staff
The numbers are impressive.
By 11:10 a.m. Tuesday, 6,163 people had taken advantage of no-excuse, one-stop voting in Beaufort County. That figure is about 20 percent of the county’s 31,769 registered voters (as of Oct. 25).
On Monday, according to the Beaufort County Board of Elections, 854 people marked ballots. That’s more voters than some of the county’s precincts have. Since no-excuse, one-stop voting began Oct. 16, an average of 700 voters a day have decided to participate in the early voting process, according to Beaufort County elections officials.
If that trend continues until early voting ends at 1 p.m. Saturday, it’s likely close to 10,000 voters will have opted to vote before Election Day, which is Nov. 4. With one of every five voters in Beaufort County deciding to vote early, that can be taken as a sign that voters are more interested in this election than in the elections in 2004 and 2008.
During the 2004 election, about 3,500 Beaufort County voters used the early voting option.
Not only are the numbers of voters taking advantage of early voting up in Beaufort County, those numbers are up across the state and nation. In the 17 states that allow early voting, at least seven million voters had voted early as of the beginning of this week.
The increase in early voting could be a sign that voter turnout on Election Day may the highest it has been in many years.
There’s no doubt the possibility of a black man being elected president or a woman being elected vice president is a factor in the increase in the number of voters marking their ballots early. It is heartening to see many voters using the early voting process to help choose the nation’s leadership for the next four years.
Although this election will make history because of who will be elected president or vice president, being a part of that history is not why many voters have voted or will vote in this election. There can be no doubt that voters’ interest in this election has to do with issues such as repairing the economy, the war on terrorism and taxes. Voters are going to support the candidate they believe has their best interests at heart.
If voter interest in this election, in which the next president will be chosen, will carry over during the next four years to elections at the state and local levels, that will be a meaningful occurrence. People should be as interested in elections for seats on a city council or town board of commissioners as they are in picking a president. In many instances, local government has more influence on people’s day-to-day circumstances than the federal government.
Seeing so many people exercising their right to vote and doing so early nourishes a hope that more and more people will choose to participate in the process by which we govern ourselves. By voting, people make their voices heard. By voting, a single voter expresses his or her vision for the future of the city, county, state and nation in which he or she lives.
With just a few days left in the early voting period, people should be prepared to wait in line before they mark their ballots. Those lines at polling places, whether during the early voting period or on Election Day, serve as reminders that Americans are exercising their right to vote.
The more voters in those long lines, the better for America. Voters exercising their right to vote will help keep this nation healthy.