Low voter turnout a bad omen for state

Low voter turnout last fall in West Virginia should come as no surprise. Neither should the fact that fewer than one in four young voters went to the polls. That does not make the numbers any less distressing, however.

Our state had the lowest participation rate in the nation during the November general election, the Census Bureau reported this week. West Virginia was the only state in which fewer than 50 percent of registered voters went to the polls.

But the Census Bureau had even worse news: Fewer than 23 percent of Mountain State registered voters ages 18-24 cast ballots last fall. That was the lowest participation rate of any age group, anywhere.

Again, neither figure is surprising. One major factor in low voter turnout here was President Barack Obama’s presence at the top of the ballot in November. Obama is wildly unpopular in West Virginia, with good reason.

His assault on the coal industry, his moves toward socialism, his growth of government and his general attitude toward people like West Virginians has made the president one of the most disliked politicians in memory in our state.

Many West Virginia voters simply saw no reason to go to the polls last fall. As staunch Democrats, they could not bring themselves to vote for Republican Mitt Romney for president – but they also could not stomach Obama. So many simply stayed home.

Obama’s strength among young voters was impressive in most other states. But here, the low turnout among one of his core constituencies spoke volumes about his policies.

What is distressing is that so many Mountain State registered voters did not recognize there were many important reasons other than the presidential election to go to the polls last November. Local and state elections were, in some ways, more important than the presidency.

Clearly, many people did not – and, as evidence from other elections indicates, do not – understand that.

When fewer than one in four young West Virginians recognize the importance of influencing local and state governments, we have a serious problem in our state. The situation does not bode well for the future.

Clearly, much more needs to be done to get young residents of our state involved in politics. If the current trend of apathy persists, the future in West Virginia will be bleak.