We Hold These Truths to be Self Evident...
Last week, we celebrated the first occasion. On November 11 – on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – we marked another year of honoring our hard working veterans. Throughout the past 100 years, those veterans have journeyed to far off places to fight battles so that we wouldn’t have to. Belleau Wood, Normandy, Guadalcanal, Inchon, Ia Drang, Kahfji, Kandahar, Fallujah – remote points on world maps, all well known to the 1.5 million veterans that call Florida home. Consider the following statistics from the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs:
A full 12 percent of Florida’s population 18 and older have served in action – the third largest population in the U.S.,
More than 231,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans call Florida home, and
While we have the largest population of WWII veterans in the United States (more than 164,000), the living history of their sacrifice is quickly diminishing – 670 of these veterans pass away every day.
The second occasion reflects on an event that took place 150 years ago today, when President Abraham Lincoln delivered what many have referred to as the single most famous speech in American history. His speech consecrated the ground of Gettysburg a mere four months after the pivotal battle that took place on that site. In July 1863, men (many of them boys) from the Union and Confederacy met in a small Pennsylvania town and made small, rural and relatively unknown places like Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill part of the American lexicon. Names such as Lee, Pickett and Longstreet paved the way for a ceremony on a cold November 19 day, when a solemn President would utter 270 words so profound they are carved in the hearts of Americans.
It is within the context of these two occasions that we discuss a scorecard stat that can and should be better. Florida’s voter turnout, as calculated by the Florida Secretary of State, measures those registered voters who actually voted in a given election. This is slightly different than the voter participation rate, which estimates the percentage of the eligible voters that take part. Florida’s voter turnout rate has, consistently throughout the past 12 years, lagged the overall U.S. voter turnout rate by double digits. In 2012, our voter turnout rate of 71.5 percent was a full 15 percentage points below the U.S. voter turnout of 86.8 percent. Looking back on the past 12 years, Florida’s voter turnout has never been closer than 14 points below the U.S. rate.