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—Joanna Clark, San Juan Capistrano

Voter turnout in past elections have dipped from 62.3 percent of eligible citizens voting in 2008 to an estimated 57.5 percent in 2012; continuing to drop to an estimated 55.3 percent in 2016, according to bipartisanpolicy.org. In general, lower turnouts are most likely related to voter disenchantment, indifference, or contentment.

Disenchanted with what’s happening in Washington? Want someone to blame? Well, look in the mirror, because it does not matter whether you are Democratic, Republican or Independent, we are all inherently at fault to some extent.

You’re a Republican, so you vote a straight Republican ticket, or you’re a Democrat, so you vote a straight Democratic ticket. Maybe a family member, your Pastor, or your boss tells you how to vote, while many just do not bother to vote. In terms of household participation in Presidential debates, Nielsen TV household ratings show “a drop from 59.5 percent of the first debate in 1960 to 39.9 percent for the first debate in 2012.”

We were a Democratic Republic at one time — of the People, by the People, for the People. We have lost our Republic because we have failed as a nation to fulfill our responsibilities to each other. As a result, our nation has become divided, and White Nationalism and Fascism are on the rise.

If we are going to defeat this threat, skin color, ethnicity, sex or gender, or religious beliefs should be unimportant to us in choosing a candidate. The one exception is the hard-core religious extremist. Beware of them.

The important criteria to base your decision on are the prospective candidates character, knowledge of the position they seek, respect for the Constitution and Rule of Law, and respect for all, regardless of the color of their skin, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation gender, gender identity, education, disability, immigration status, homelessness or religious beliefs.

Just as important as the above, is whether in the vetting process, you are convinced the candidate will work for the benefit of all, not just the billionaires and corporate elite, or their own agenda, at the expense of the poor, middle-class and disabled. In other words, will they work to ensure equality under color of law for both citizens and non-citizens, in accordance with the Constitution and Rule of Law?

Perhaps if we all did a better job of vetting those we vote for in order to insure they stand and support the above criteria we’d be better off. And if, or when, we make a mistake and vote for the wrong person, we don’t keep reelecting him or her. If we set the bar high enough for both ourselves and our candidate of choice, we might just reclaim our Democratic Republic.

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