The holiday weekend will be filled with backyard barbecues, trips to the beach and impressive fireworks displays. Americaís birthday will be celebrated in many ways throughout the nation.
The parties and family get togethers are fun, but citizens should also celebrate the countryís independence by casting ballots in the primary election Aug. 5 and in the general election Nov. 4.
Although the deadline is near, thereís still time to register for the primary. The deadline is Monday. So, after celebrating all weekend, those who are not registered can cap their activities with a trip to the local Secretary of State office. The registration deadline for the Nov. 4 general election is Oct. 6.
Voting is not just a right but also an obligation. Itís an essential tool for preserving the freedoms Americans value. Apathy only weakens the nation.
Yet voting turnouts are generally poor, particularly in primary elections.
Statewide, in the 2010 primary race for governor, only 23 percent of the registered voters cast ballots. That was about 1.7 million people out of a total of 7.2 million registered.
Even for president, the turnout has been less than impressive for the primary.
In the 2012 presidential race, only 16 percent of the 7.4 million registered Michigan voters cast ballots.
The figures are somewhat better for the general election but still could be vastly improved. In the 2010 governorís race, 42.2 percent of the stateís registered voters cast ballots while in the presidential race of 2012, the figure was 64 percent for Michigan.
In Third World countries, when people were offered a chance to vote, turnouts have been in the 80 and 90 percent range.
Even in war-torn Afghanistan turnout for this yearís elections has been in the 40 to 50 percent range. This is despite the death threats to voters and attacks on polling places carried out by the Taliban.
Fortunately, Americans donít have to put their lives on the line to vote.
Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, says there are still about 7.4 million registered voters out of a voting age population of about 7.6 million.
Thereís still time to obtain an absentee ballot for those who canít make it to the polls in person.
For a primary election absentee ballot, the request must be submitted to your local clerkís office by Aug. 2.
The absentee ballot deadline for the general election is Nov. 1.
Although exact figures arenít available on how many absentee ballots have been requested for the primary, Woodhams says generally 20 percent of the votes cast in an election are by absentee voters.
When the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence ó an event we celebrate this weekend ó they declared their freedom from Great Britain and their desire to be a sovereign nation.
One of the best ways to pay tribute to this countryís independence is to vote.