W.Va. Voter Apathy An Embarrassment

As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, West Virginians will hear a great deal about the ideals that led to formation of our great nation more than two centuries ago. Our rights, freedoms – and responsibilities – as citizens of this republic will take center stage.

Closer to home, our state is celebrating 150 years of its own independence this year, and the remarkable interest in the well-being of this Union that drove its residents to make the unprecedented political and social statement they did.

It would boggle the minds of our ancestors to learn, then, that West Virginia ranked dead last in voter turnout during the 2012 general election. In fact, ours was the only state in which fewer than half of eligible voters headed to the polls in November. Fewer than one-fourth of 18- to 24-year-old voters made the effort.

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant attributed some of this apathy to the lack of face-to-face contact with the candidates. “We were overlooked by both sides of the presidential candidates for obvious reasons,” she said. And, of course, President Barack Obama’s unpopularity here kept some voters away from the polls.

Of course, voters’ behavior has given future candidates little reason not to continue to overlook the state.

West Virginians who could not be bothered to care enough to vote in November may find themselves caring a great deal, now. Let us carry away from this year’s July 4 celebrations more than simply the memory of beautiful fireworks. West Virginians should carry away a reminder of the importance of participation in the political process born on that day.