Every vote does matter — so do your duty

You've received your mail ballot for the 2016 general election. You set it aside, wondering whether it's worth the effort this time. Or you might have tossed it in the trash, not caring enough to participate.

Your apathy is understandable, regardless of your affiliation. Perhaps, at least after this nauseating campaign, you don't ever plan to vote again, period.

If so, let me try to talk you back from the edge. If you've just been procrastinating, the goal is to rekindle your interest.

Granted, we've all been pushed to the limits by the actions, antics and absurdities bombarding us from every direction — and not just in the presidential race. When Donald Trump says the media are "among the most dishonest people in the world," insists that every woman accusing him of sexual over-aggressiveness is lying, then just as loudly says Hillary Clinton should go to jail for unproven allegations, that drags the nation deeper into the septic tank now overflowing with toxic sludge.

But wait. That doesn't mean we should refuse to vote. If anything, our exasperation should make us more determined than ever to make our feelings known. And at various levels, we can support refreshing candidates as well as important issues.

We can't lose sight of that. It might seem the damage from this election season might take years to heal, but most of the rancid rhetoric should be fading away just a week from now. We might hear some lingering sour grapes, but not for long. The world will move on, and we can put this nastiness behind us.

What difference can one vote make, you ask? OK, your choices might not be the tiebreaker for any races. But if you and only a few others give in to apathy, that could affect outcomes — even here. Just last year, in Manitou Springs, Nicole Nicoletta was elected mayor by just 10 votes, 878-868. Four years ago, in the statewide question of Amendment 64 to legalize recreational marijuana, more than 283,000 El Paso County voters weighed in. That difference was also 10 votes, 141,696 yes to 141,686 no.

This time, in Colorado's first presidential election conducted by mail ballot, El Paso County should far surpass those totals, with 375,000 or so ballots out and at least 300,000, perhaps far more, likely to participate.

Here are some ways your vote could matter:

In two local races, voters have a chance to break Republicans' stranglehold of nearly a half-century on the Board of County Commissioners. District 3, covering the county's western areas from south of The Broadmoor to Palmer Lake, has a tight battle between Democrat Electra Johnson and Republican Stan VanderWerf. And the uncounted early returns (broken down only by affiliation) were 41 percent GOP, 33 percent Dems and 26 percent unaffiliated, with Johnson only having to make up 1,400 votes among the 30,000-plus registered as unaffiliated in D-3.

[pullquote-1] And in District 4, Democrat Liz Rosenbaum has a similar chance against Republican Longinos Gonzalez with unaffiliateds outnumbering the registered GOP voters. But only if the Dems turn out as well.

Of course, if you're a Republican, you're feeling comparably inspired to do your part. That's how democracy should work.

Your influence could be more than you realize in other ways. In 2008 and 2012, everyone knew Barack Obama wouldn't carry the Colorado Springs area. But when he pulled nearly 40 percent here in 2008, and fairly close to that four years later, it was enough to help him carry Colorado. Most likely, Clinton hopes for a similar percentage now, as is Sen. Michael Bennet against challenger Darryl Glenn.

Also, several state-level ballot issues look close, without being directly impacted (other than turnout) by Clinton-Trump. Those questions could impact you personally, such as universal health care (Amendment 69), raising the minimum wage (A-70), making it tougher to change the Colorado Constitution (A-71), allowing the terminally ill to hasten their exit (Proposition 106) and having open primaries including presidential with unaffiliateds able to take part (Props 107 and 108).

All of those choices await inside that envelope on your desk or kitchen table. (If you threw it away, simply go to a voter service center and get another.)

So you still think it doesn't matter? There's time to reconsider, even if you don't like all the choices. Voting isn't just a right. It's your duty.