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Democracy is only as strong as people voting


Members of the Courier Sentinel editorial board include publisher Carol O’Leary, general manager Kris O’Leary and Star News editor Brian Wilson.

In 1864, while the U.S. Civil War was raging, America held a presidential election. Abraham Lincoln was running for re-election and was being challenged by retired Gen. George B. McClellan, who had served as commander of the Union forces early in the civil war.

More than 4 million votes were cast from coast to coast, an estimated 73.8 percent turnout of eligible voters.

The choice in that election was continuing the fight to restore the Union, or seeking a negotiated peace with the Confederacy. Voters had no doubt that their decision would resonate through the pages of history. It was, in many ways, a vote for the survival of the nation.

In 1944, American servicemen were fighting and dying on battlefields around the globe. The war’s impact was felt in every home and every community around the country. In the middle of that global war, America held an election. Franklin Roosevelt’s challenger, Thomas Dewey, ran on a campaign of smaller government and the end to New Deal programs. More than 48 million votes were cast, representing 56.1 percent of the voting population.

Despite the hyperbole spouted in social media echochambers, America’s current state of affairs is far less dire than it was 156 years ago, or even 76 years ago. This is not to underplay what is at stake in this election, but to serve to emphasize the importance of elections.

Even when the United States is under tremendous pressure, and appears ready to fracture under the weight of history, Americans don’t turn away from democracy.

There is no room for military juntas or tin pot dictators in America’s history. From the Founding Fathers, through the trials and tribulations of 244 years of history, American democracy has thrived. America has thrived, because engaged citizens exercised their right to vote.

American voters have time and again demonstrated that the power of concerned people to enact change at the ballot box, cannot be deterred. From the suffragettes of a century ago, to those fighting for civil rights in the Jim Crow-era south, the battle to ensure access to the polls has been an enduring one.

As it does with each election, America once again stands at a crossroads. Millions of Americans have already cast their ballots, either through traditional mail-in or in-person absentee ballots. Many others will head to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 3, to cast their votes in person.

Regardless of how you choose to do it, the key is to become informed on the issues and to vote.

Be part of America’s future, vote.