Higher turnout for primary good to see, but still not enough

Published 11:05 am Monday, March 14, 2016

Last week, voters in Berrien and Cass counties were among the 2.5 million Michigan residents who hit the polls during Tuesday’s historic presidential primary election.

While the initial news naturally focused on the victories of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders, who upset rival Hillary Clinton, there was another story that emerged that civic-minded citizens on both side of the aisle could both find solace in.

According to the Michigan Secretary of State office, more than 34 percent of all registered voters in the state exercised their sacred right Tuesday — the highest turnout since the era of the modern primary in 1972, according to a news story on MLive.com.

The results of the election in Berrien and Cass counties told a similar story, with more than 28 percent of Berrien voters and more than 27 percent of Cass voters casting votes during the election. These numbers were higher than turnouts in 2012, which saw 16.5 percent of Berrien and 19.8 percent of Cass voters casting ballots, and even the similarly contested 2008 election, which around 18 percent of Berrien and 20.5 percent of Cass voters hitting the polling booths that year.

While there are a myriad of reasons for the increase — the massive amount of media coverage given to the candidates over the last several months, the highly competitive nature of this year’s race, the fact Michigan’s primary was a critical juncture in the primary season, to even the fact the weather was warm and pleasant throughout most of the state — the bottom line is, seeing more voters choose to use perhaps the most important right at their disposal is always pleasing for us to see.

As has been said in past editorials and columns from our staff, voting is the most effective tool we have as citizens to shape the direction and course not just our local communities or state, but the entire U.S. With several presidential candidates still in contention falling outside the traditional mold, there’s a real chance the results of November’s general election could mark a turning point in our nation’s history — and that decision will be made exclusively by the people who turn out out to the polls that day.

That being said, in spite of enthusiasm at the turnout, we still feel we’re quite far from where we need to be. The 35 percent of Michigan voters who participated in Tuesday’s election only represent around 1 in 3 Michiganders — meaning a vast majority of registered voters still chose to sit this one out.

As we said earlier, the stakes of this presidential election are perhaps higher than they’ve been in the history of our country. While we’re optimistic that even more voters will turn out to ultimately decide our next president in November, we hope that the people who remain apathetic to the voting process realize that their voice matters — perhaps now more than ever.


Opinions expressed are those of the editorial board consisting of Publisher Michael Caldwell and editors Ambrosia Neldon, Craig Haupert, Ted Yoakum and Scott Novak.