election pix

Election signs on display in front of the Wheatland Municipal Building voting precinct Tuesday.

IF Election Day is an opportunity to allow our voices to be heard, Mercer County shouted this time.

Initial figures released Wednesday by the county department of Voter Registration and Elections indicate 62.52% of the county’s registered voters cast ballots, either by mail-in ballot or in person Tuesday.

In raw numbers, 45,221 people cast ballots, from a pool of 72,335 registered voters. And the participation figures stand to only increase as the department counts provisional and overseas ballots in the coming days.

That’s the highest turnout rate for a midterm election in at least 16 years, according to the department’s online database. And second place, 58.21% in 2018, is about 4,000 ballots behind this year’s as-yet-incomplete figures.

In order to have an apples-to-apples comparison, we have to judge this year’s election against prior midterms — 2018, 2014, 2010 and 2006. By the same standard, we need to compare like elections with like elections.

Every four-year election cycle includes a presidential election, a municipal election that includes countywide financial offices, a mid-term election and a municipal election with countywide law enforcement and administrative posts.

The second election — municipal with financial county offices including controller and treasurer — typically has the lowest turnout in each cycle. Turnout in 2021, the most recent financial office election, was 33.85%.

But that was only 0.14 percentage points lower than 2019’s administrative countywide election, which includes county commissioners and district attorney. The administrative election is coming up again next year, and we can reasonably expect a turnout rate in the high 30s or even low 40s.

We can expect that because has been growing across all four elections in each cycle. Turnout for the 2022 midterms was higher than that in 2018, which was higher than 2014’s turnout.

Same with both sets of municipal elections, and the presidential elections.

From 1952 through 2016, voter participation, as a percentage of total population, in presidential elections stagnated within a few percentage points of 40%, according to the United States Election Project.

Presidential election turnouts 48% in 2020, an increase of six percentage points from four years earlier.

Voter participation, after being on the decline for years, is rebounding, which is a positive development — the more of us who cast ballots on Election Day, the more likely it is that we’ll have a republic that represents the hopes and desires of the people.

It’s difficult to deny that politics across the United States has become divisive.

As we put another election in our rear-view mirror, it’s worth reaching out to those on the other side and put some effort into building bridges.

Because the division, the demonization of those who disagree with us can be a greater threat than the ideas either side embraces.

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