Civil and voting rights leader Vernon Dahmer once said, “If you don’t vote, you don’t count.”

Judging by the recent results of the June 8 elections, 86 percent of the registered voters in Portland don’t count.

Mr. Dahmer felt so strongly about the right to vote that he paid for it with his life after the Ku Klux Klan fire-bombed his house.

The apparent voter apathy in Portland is both disconcerting and ironic. Disconcerting, because a small, organized and determined minority of voters was able to dictate the outcome of one of the most important elections in the city of Portland. The newly elected members of the city Charter Commission have the power to rewrite Portland’s constitution.

It is ironic for a couple of reasons: First, because of all elections, local elections are where the Portland voter has the greatest impact. Consider the recent June 8 election: Only 8,884 people voted, so the weight of a single vote is 1/8884. In the 2020 presidential election, over 155 million people voted, so the weight of an individual vote is less. Second, most of the issues being decided at the local level have a more direct impact on the voters: issues such as taxes, school budgets and regulations on businesses, like the recent resetting of the local minimum-wage rate.

I hope in future elections Portlanders will consider the implications of their not voting. Many Americans in the military and public citizens have paid dearly for our right to vote. Please, let’s not insult their sacrifice by refusing to vote.

Samuel Rosenthal

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