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Editorial: Voting assures public voice in nation’s future

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It seems like nearly every election is labeled as the most important ever. But this time, that characterization might be close to the truth.

On Tuesday, not only will voters decide whether to keep President Barack Obama in office or replace him with Mitt Romney, but the results of House and Senate races could shape the political philosophies and ability to act for both chambers of Congress.

The same is true at the state level with the races for governor, other state offices and Statehouse.

And equally important are the local races, especially the school board elections, which have been moved to the fall general election from the May primary. The reasoning behind the General Assembly’s action was so that more voters, especially those who don’t take part in partisan primaries, have the chance to vote for this most intimate of electoral races.

The airwaves have been littered recently with claims, counterclaims, charges and rebuttals from various candidates for public office. Some historians are characterizing this year’s campaign as one of the nastiest in history, which is saying something when you take into account those involving Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and other 19th-century campaigners.

But the public name-calling and the barrage of ads will end Tuesday when citizens head to the polls to vote.

Voting is perhaps the most important responsibility a citizen has. But it needs to be exercised. Not voting means people surrender their voice and power to people they likely do not know.

The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, retired president of the University of Notre Dame, described voting as a civic sacrament.

The early 20th-century American essayist George Jean Nathan said, “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”

Many voters have been turned off by the rash of negative ads at nearly all levels of office. And some of them will sit out the election as a protest. This kind of action is self-defeating.

As one national columnist put it, if you don’t embrace either candidate in a race, hold your nose and vote for the one you consider the better of the two (or three in some races). But not to vote is to throw away your chance altogether and to leave the decision up to someone else.

On a more pragmatic level, don’t forget to bring a government-issued photo ID with you go to the polls Tuesday. This can be a driver’s license, state ID card, passport or military ID.

For voters who do not have a photo ID, Indiana license branches will have extended hours Monday and Tuesday to accommodate people who need an ID to vote. People without IDs can even vote provisionally, then return with a valid ID to confirm the vote so it can be counted.

Remember, to have a voice, people must vote. The more who do, the louder that voice.

When the people speak, politicians listen.

Vote on Tuesday.

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