Back in the late 1950s when the geezer edited the De Pere Journal-Democrat, a weekly paper in a small city near Green Bay, patriotism ran rampant at election time. De Pere billed itself as “The All-American City.” The self-conferred title resulted from the amazing rate of voting by citizens.
In the election year I lived in De Pere, 98 percent of the eligible voters in the population of about 9,000 cast a ballot.
I don’t recall getting an “I voted” sticker at the polling place, but they weren’t needed. People, some perfect strangers, asked me throughout the day whether I had voted. A standard comment was, “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.” Voting simply was something everyone did in De Pere. There was no tolerance for those who skipped their civic duty.
At Journal Publishing, the owner toured the printing plant early in the day and told every employee to make sure to take the time off needed to go and cast a vote. Other business owners throughout the city were known to do that.
I don’t know if De Pere has maintained the “All-American City” tradition. I hope so. I do know only about half of the eligible voters in the U.S. are going to bother to cast a vote in our current very important presidential election.
Perhaps some friendly competition among cities to see which one can claim the voting title might do all of us a favor.