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Voters, go do your civic duty

A comprehensive chart designed to show the nation’s counties with the highest and lowest voter turnout in 2016 shows Minnesota is home to the nation’s most diligent and dedicated voters. Nearly 70 percent of the voting age residents of Minnesota went to the polls during the last general election.

North Dakota, however, didn’t necessarily follow that trend. And judging by a map compiled by The Washington Post, the northern Red River Valley lags behind much of the rest of the state. In Grand Forks, Walsh and Pembina counties, only about 57 percent of voting age residents actually voted. It was the same percentage in Stark, Ransom and Williams counties.

Meanwhile, Sioux, Benson and Rolette counties reported the worst voter turnouts — all below 47 percent. Ward County was only slightly higher than 50 percent.

In Minnesota, Mahnomen County came in at 57 percent, but all the rest of that state’s counties were 59 percent or higher.

Comparing our region against the nation, it doesn’t look that bad. Throughout the United States, slightly fewer than 56 percent of voting age citizens voted, according to data from the Pew Research Center and recently reported in The Post. It ranged from fewer than 40 percent in Hawaii to the impressive 70 percent rates of Minnesota and Maine.

Some countries, such as Denmark and Sweden, see voter participation rates of better than 80 percent.

The Post reports that the differences can be attributed to all sorts of variables, from state policies (voter requirements, for instance) to demographic differences such as the race, age and education of a county’s voters.

But 57 percent during a general election that had a presidential race along with important local and state races and issues? In a state that doesn’t require voter registration?

Here’s a pep talk for local voters.

Go vote. Not just because it’s a civic duty, but because it’s easy.

Can’t get to the polls? Cities Area Transit — the Grand Forks public transportation system — is offering free rides to the polls all day Nov. 6.

A recent report in the Herald noted how rideshare services, such as Uber, are offering free or reduced rate fares for voters that day, too.

Want to avoid the crowds? Early voting in Grand Forks County will be Oct. 30-Nov. 2 at the Alerus Center.

Also, absentee voting in North Dakota is simple and it only takes a few minutes of prep time to do it. Simply go online to the Grand Forks County auditor’s website and click on “election info.” From there, it’s a quick and self-explanatory process that only takes a few minutes.

Otherwise, drive to a polling place on Nov. 6. At most, the process usually takes 20 minutes. We urge businesses to let employees vote on company time; doing so is a nice perk that promotes civic awareness and responsibility.

We assume increased interest exists with this year’s election, thanks to the great importance attached to the state’s U.S. Senate race. Perhaps that alone will generate a rise in voter turnout.

Yet it shouldn’t have to come down to the race itself. North Dakotans, and specifically Red River Valley residents, should simply want to vote. It’s our civic duty.