Published 8:37 am Saturday, May 10, 2014

I rarely sit down to my computer and write a column out of anger or frustration. Now, it has happened from time to time, like when I railed against the people who leave their shopping carts all over the grocery store parking lot. Or maybe one of the times I lambasted city council and the school board for failing to take action against a failing school superintendent. Or lashed out at a community leader for…well… .

Okay, so maybe it happens more often than I thought. But if I have ever written a column out of frustration, make no mistake, it was never more so than today.

On Tuesday, Franklin voters — or should I say people who are registered to vote but don’t — had the opportunity to go to the polls and help decide on the future direction of this city.

Unfortunately, the vast majority chose not to.

By vast majority I mean 82 percent of those registered to vote but didn’t: 4,436 to be exact.

That’s right. Out of 5,746 registered voters in this city only 1,040 made the effort to vote. In my humble opinion, that’s deplorable.

Now I know some of you are saying, “But Tony, two of the four races weren’t contested on the ballot and I don’t live in either of the wards that were. So what would have been the point?”

The point, my inquisitive friends, is this: you vote because you can.

That’s all. That’s the only reason you need. You vote, because many human beings around the world still can’t, but you can.

Not enough?

You vote because you’re black, and until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 enforced your citizenship rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment, there was no guarantee that you would be allowed at the polls, especially in the South. Countless people suffered or died to make that happen.

You vote because you’re a woman, and until the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified less than 100 years ago the government of the United States did not recognize a woman’s right to vote. Generations of women worked tirelessly to make that happen.

You vote because you’re an American, and our forefathers who founded this nation pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor in defense of a declaration of independence and federal constitution that gave you that right. Generations of Americans in uniform have literally put their life on the line every day, willing to risk it all so that it could continue to happen. Some gave it all so that it did.

You vote because, even though a local candidate may be running unopposed, a large voter turnout lets elected officials know you’re paying attention. A low turnout reinforces their belief that you don’t care.

You vote because it’s the right thing to do.

You vote, quite simply, because you can.

TONY CLARK is the associate publisher of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.