There’s a number from Scotland’s failed referendum on independence that should amaze and shame us:
That’s the percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot Thursday on whether their country should remain part of the United Kingdom. Incredibly, that number includes 16- and 17-year-olds, who were allowed to vote in this special election.
Compare that with North Carolina, where voting is now open for the Nov. 4 general election here and across the country. It’s an off-year election, which means there’s no presidential race to consider, so if precedent holds, we’ll be fortunate to get half the voter turnout that Scotland did. In the last off-year general election in 2010, just under 40 percent of North Carolina’s eligible voters cast a ballot.
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Yes, the Scots were voting to end a 307-year union with England, so there’s a considerable difference between Thursday’s vote across the pond and what North Carolinians will decide in November.
But is the difference really that big? This fall, N.C. voters will choose our next U.S. Senator – either incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan or Republican challenger Thom Tillis. The outcome could very well decide which party is in control of the Senate, which would impact critical policy issues facing our country for the next two years.
North Carolinians also will be casting ballots in state races. Mecklenburg voters will be deciding the makeup of our county board of commissioners and the fate of a proposed quarter-cent sales tax increase that commissioners say would go to CMS teacher and employee raises, the arts, libraries and Central Piedmont Community College.
So if you think that Republicans in Raleigh are taking the state in the wrong direction, or that Democrats in Mecklenburg County are spending your tax dollars a little too freely, now is your chance to do something more substantial than grumbling.
As always, the Observer editorial board is here to help. We’ll be making endorsements for Mecklenburg races, along with state races of interest and, of course, the U.S. Senate. Those endorsements are recommendation of candidates we believe would serve their constituents best. They are not predictions of winners, and they’re not telling you who to vote for.
The biggest recommendation of all? Do something. Fill out a ballot. Treat Nov. 4 like the Scots treated Thursday – as a chance to determine their direction. Independence might not be at stake, but representation is. That’s a pretty big deal, too.