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Depending on one’s perspective (and not necessarily one’s party affiliation), this remarkable election season has created a bit of discussion over the phrase, "Make America Great Again."
Partisans have made semantic arguments to support either view. We propose both views, nestled in the context of voting.
We would argue first that America remains great — as in “the greatest country on earth” — on the merits of our Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the ultimate, sovereign authority of our government resting not on a king, oligarch, despot, emperor or cabal. We are ruled by ourselves: We the People of the United States.
At the same time, when turnout of the voting age population hasn’t cracked 60 percent since 1964 (as low as 49 percent in 1996), we see a clear need for recovery of our civic strength.
The low turnout created by a disaffected, discouraged or disenfranchised electorate cries out for reminders of the people’s role. Lobbyists, billionaires, even foreign manipulators use any means to take advantage of the weakening of the people’s voice through diminished participation at the polls.
The way to restore that voice is to increase participation, and Massachusetts voters this year will be able to vote early, beginning Oct. 24. The system is proven to increase access and voter participation, and is offered now in two-thirds of the 50 states.
Advocates who have spent years trying to win early voting in Massachusetts continue to work on the most important issue of education, targeting local election administrators and executives who may be planning to expand the voting window by the bare minimum.
The electorate’s education, however, must never end. Familiarity with the candidates and issues comes early in the process, and following through at the polls comes next. Attending rallies in high numbers and screaming at the top of one’s lungs may be enough to satisfy a politician’s ego, but a visit to the polling place is all the louder when joined with millions of other votes. That is the voice that will matter.
Blacks, women, and 18- to 20-year-olds gained the right to vote late in our history. If we are to enjoy the benefits of liberty described and supported in America’s founding documents, we must exercise our sovereign authority, or we face further loss of our voice if we ignore our right.
The Standard-Times’ aims to exercise the First Amendment right to free press in its highest cause, the defense of the Constitution and of American democracy.
We also recognize groups such as the League of Women Voters, MassPIRG, and Massachusetts Common Cause, members of the broad coalition that worked for early voting in Massachusetts and who visited with our editorial board this week. Their work in that highest cause will help bring more voters to the polls.
We offer our highest praise for the regular citizens who register new voters for the sake of democracy.
Modern society and modern pressures have eaten away at the festival or holiday atmosphere that once surrounded Election Day. If we dare to grasp the existential importance of casting our votes, we may yet find new ways to bring more people to the polls and determine our national life.
An opportunity to participate before the general election sits before us this week, as the deadline to register for the Sept. 8 primary election is Friday. Educate yourself, register before Friday, and make your voice heard where it really counts.
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