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Other views: N.D. trend in voting troubling

A substantial number of North Dakota citizens may be looking smugly at the political chaos in California. There, a small percentage of voters will chose the fate of its present and perhaps future governor. But before North Dakota considers itself...

A substantial number of North Dakota citizens may be looking smugly at the political chaos in California. There, a small percentage of voters will chose the fate of its present and perhaps future governor. But before North Dakota considers itself the epitome of democracy, it should reflect upon troubling historical trends.

Voter participation in North Dakota has been shrinking steadily for a generation. In a presidential election year, one would think that voter turnout would be relatively high, especially in a rural state which espouses "personal responsibility." In 1980 and 1984 North Dakota voter turnout was 82.2 percent of all eligible voters. In 2000 that percentage slipped to 50.1 percent of all eligible voters. Even in presidential election years, 32.1 percent of North Dakota voters have disengaged themselves from the process.

It is even worse in off year elections. Voter participation has slipped from 67.0 percent of all eligible voters in 1982 to 30.0 percent in 2002. Thirty-seven percent of North Dakotans apparently don't care who represents them in Congress or the state Legislature.

It is hard to believe that well-educated North Dakotans could actually believe that voting doesn't matter.

At the same time, the blood of North Dakota citizens is being shed in Iraq. What is the purpose of establishing a democrary in Iraq with the blood of North Dakota youth if North Dakotans won't even take the time to cast an absentee ballot? It is about as easy to vote in North Dakota as rolling off a log.

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The axiom that one gets the government one deserves is as true as it has ever been. If those potential voters who haven't been bothering to vote started voting again, leadership would change. A voting bloc of 30 percent to 37 percent is not a whisper. It is a sonic boom.

Will things change, or will 30 percent to 37 percent of North Dakota continue to allow North Dakota blood to be shed for Iraq, but not shed an ounce of their own sweat for North Dakota?

Think about it.

Maxson is a Minot attorney, former state legislator and current Democratic National Committeeman for North Dakota. E-mail maxsonlaw@minot.com

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