Like other places across the state and nation, Lawrence County experience high voter numbers in last Tuesday’s election, especially during the early voting period.
Obviously any time there is a presidential election, one can expect higher voter turnout, and this year’s race definitely was a driving force to get people to the polls.
Across the nation, and especially on social media, it was easy to see the passion felt on both sides of the spectrum as people proclaimed their desire to either stay on the same track (AKA the Trump train) or effect change with a new president.
But in the state of Arkansas, where one can pretty much assume from the get go that the electoral votes will go to the Republican candidate, we still saw an exceptional turnout.
In Lawrence County, a total of 5,880 voters cast ballots making up nearly 70 percent of the registered voters. A large percentage of those, a total of 3,646 voters, took advantage of voting early either at the Lawrence County Courthouse or one of the off-site locations provided on Saturdays.
So, even though the presidential race was a factor, maybe there was even more behind the turnout.
Perhaps part of the reason voters turned out in mass is because in general, we as a people, feel like we are powerless in the current state of the world and casting a ballot was a way to assert some control.
After months of uncertainty dealing with the COVID-19 virus, not knowing what to do or not do, when the time came to vote, maybe it was a desire to have their voices heard and be a part of the process that drove people to the polls.
In addition, it may be as simple as a desire to do something – anything. Many events have been canceled during the pandemic, and attendance at other events like ball games has been strictly limited.
For a while, even going to church was not an option, and today for those at higher risk may still not be something they are comfortable doing.
But, voting was something from the beginning that officials said they would make sure the American people could do.
Maybe for the first time in many years instead of feeling like voting is an obligation, something we should do or need to do, it felt like a privilege, something we get to do.
Can you imagine being alive as voting rights became a reality. The excitement that must have come with those first times of “getting to vote.”
Maybe a little of that excitement carried forward into the 2020 election – that for once in this crazy year, we had a chance to have our voices heard and were able to do something that in years past we have taken for granted.
Often with young voters who are casting their first ballots we see that excitement as they proclaim things like “I got to vote in my first election today” or “I’m finally old enough to vote and have a voice.” But soon those proclamations turn to phrases like “I did my duty today.”
While I am not discounting the fact that voting is in fact a civic duty, we should remember it is something we have the right to do because of the groundwork that was laid by those who fought for this country. It is indeed a privilege.
I am hopeful that what we have experienced in 2020 has reminded us that voting is not simply something we should do, it is something we should be excited about doing.