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Love him or hate him, President Trump certainly knows how to rile citizens into participating in our democracy. Over 160 million Americans cast their vote in this year's election, setting two records: the highest voter turnout in over 100 years, plus the highest number of votes cast (about 80 million for Joe Biden) for a presidential candidate. Trump set the second highest at 74 million.

Parenthetically, Biden was also on the winning ticket when Barack Obama set the previous 69.5 million votes record. But this election especially prompted a no more laissez-faire 'my one vote won't matter in the overwhelming scheme of things' impact on voter turnout. Voter turnout reached a record 66.5%, the highest turnout rate since 1860. But wait... there was higher turnout before that? Well, yes. That's the magic of statistics. Voter turnout in 1860 was over 80%. But there were fewer overall voters at the time.

Last weekend the Tompkins County Health Department reported two COVID-19 related deaths. Previous to that our county had only one death of a resident, not counting the two that had been imported from New York City early on in the pandemic. So until now we had only one local resident die of the coronavirus. As I was importing this story into the Star for this issue I was tempted to use a headline saying "Tompkins COVID Death Toll Triples!", which would be true. But it would also be misleading since we're talking three people out of a population of 102,180. Not that those people don't matter -- of course they do. But that kind of hyperbole can be misleading.

So if you look at percentages, voter turnout is actually much lower than that 1860 number. But the 160 million votes number is historically very impressive.

Interestingly, in the 2016 election 86.8% of registered voters cast votes, but only 55.7 voting age Americans voted. Worldwide, the United States has a dismal voter turnout record. Pew Research Center ranked the United States 32nd in voter turnout out of 37 countries. This election brought the US up somewhat, but still, isn't it embarrassing that the world's number one democracy has such a relatively low participation rate?

As any politician or reporter knows, most people only speak out when they are riled about something. Mr. Trump loves to be the best at everything, so I don't think he would balk at rightfully claiming to be the president who has done the most riling in history. And that is what led to these record-breaking numbers. Golly, I'd be thrilled if 80 million people Likes the Lansing Star on Facebook (I think we're up to 868). So, while Biden isn't crowing about it in Trumpian manner, he has to be excited about those 80 million Likes he just received.

According to the Tompkins County Board of Elections Tompkins County ranks in the top annual voter turnout in New York State. I guess this makes us the most riled up County in the state.  I knew I felt riled about something...

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