I have cast a ballot in 80 percent of elections in which I was qualified to vote. That's a pretty good average considering that a large number of Americans rarely vote.
It's getting worse. Sixty-three percent of voting-age Americans turned out for the 1960 national election. Compare that with 38.7 percent in 2010. An estimated 90 million potential voters won't bother on Tuesday.
You can't really blame them. There seems little point in going to the trouble of voting when you can just as well stay home and comb your hair for all the good it seems to do.
I suggested as much to a politician who knocked on my door last week. He countered by insisting that my vote was "absolutely critical."
He made it sound as if my measly vote would be the determining factor in every race from president to school board.
He was right about the critical part.
I'm so absolutely critical of the political process that I sometimes write in Jimi Hendrix for office even though he's dead.
As you can imagine, this did not sit well with someone who believes so much in the electoral process that he was willing to put his own name on a ballot.
"What if all Americans felt the way you do?" the exasperated candidate wanted to know. "Where would the country be then?"
Hmm, what if nobody voted? That would be something, wouldn't it?
Maybe the fix America needs isn't for more people to vote but rather fewer. Lots of people vote and nothing ever seems to change. A zero percent turnout at the polls would probably shake things up.
Just for laughs, I asked the candidate why he thought I should vote. Not for him specifically, but in general. Why should I vote when it doesn't really seem to make a difference?
The candidate replied that If I don't vote, I really don't have any right to complain if things don't turn out the way I want.
Wrong. I have the right to complain any time someone takes money from me by threatening to imprison or even shoot me. If being taxed happened in an alley, it would be called a "robbery."
The candidate's second reason was that it was my responsibility as an American to participate in the democratic process.
Wrong again. It's my responsibility as an American to exercise my freedom any way I want. If I don't want to vote, I don't have to. And you can't make me.
That's not true in every country with a voting populace. In some, you have to vote. Among them are Australia, Luxembourg, Brazil, Argentina and the Congo.
Now there's an excellent reason to vote. If you want the kind of government that doesn't force you to drive down to the polls and stand in line, you need to vote so that you don't HAVE to vote.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.