Note: This is the opinion of the writer and not necessarily of the Kentucky New Era. Let the community know your opinion about this topic and others by submitting a "Letter to the editor."

Elections are a curious beast, are they not?

Each year the public gets worked up about candidates, their qualifications and vision. From the local level all the way to the federal government, the state of affairs is a hot topic. The most intriguing aspect, however, may be the electorate's understanding of the details -- or lack thereof.

This is not specific to local activities. The misunderstanding ranges from what funds can be used to fill potholes to what powers are or are not reserved for the federal government, including the authority of the executive branch.

To make matters worse, campaign tactics in recent cycles have been less than forthcoming -- on both sides of the aisle. It's no wonder that the voting public is in such a frenzy each cycle. With all the misinformation flying around how is one supposed to know what to think?

We could start by caring about the issues more often than just at election time, and more than just when they affect us directly.

Campaign rhetoric invariably muddies the water. In order to have a firm grasp on the issues at hand we should be doing our homework and stay engaged and informed, more often than not.

Don't rely on the stump speeches and sound bites that get all of the play as Election Day nears.

Find a good source of trustworthy journalism -- there are plenty of them out there -- and read the coverage when everything seems mundane, as it's probably not.

Study the candidates. Ask questions. Show up to meetings and see what happens firsthand.

Arm yourself with adequate information to make an informed decision.

Don't agree with something under consideration by the local city government?

You have a voice.

Think your representatives in Frankfort and Washington are out of touch or leaving your best interests behind?

You have a voice.

Would you prefer the suits on the House floor care more about the boardroom or the classroom?

You have a voice.

Do you believe that this nation's role on the world stage should be contracted or expanded?

Again, you have a voice.

You have a voice, but no one can hear it if you do not vote. Do your homework and show up to the polls.

And after you vote, don't wait to get involved until the next election cycle. Keep studying those in power that are given the privilege to represent you and your interests. Be active in the discussions that shape your local community, state and national governments.

Educated discussion, civil discourse, is the most powerful and persuasive means to guide those whom you've chosen to be your voice after Election Day. This tool has become dormant in recent history.

As a result, people have become disenchanted and participation in the process has sunk to some of the lowest levels in history. Look no further than the 2015 gubernatorial election here in Kentucky.

In a pivotal statewide election, only 30.7% of eligible Kentucky voters made it to the voting booth in 2015.

If you remember, all the polls beforehand seemed to point to Democratic nominee Jack Conway, the sitting Attorney General in Kentucky. Conway held a steady lead over his Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin, a businessman from Louisville.

Bevin had only won the state's primary election by 83 votes over James Comer, who at the time served as Kentucky's Agriculture Commissioner before becoming our representative in Congress. The governor's race seemed to be a shoo-in for the Democratic nominee, Conway.

However, one of the lowest voter turnouts for a general election in Kentucky's modern history led to an upset, and Bevin defeated Conway with more than two-thirds of the state's eligible voters watching from the sidelines.

When the last vote was tallied only 973,692 voters had made their voices heard in the decision to pick a new governor. Less than one million people in a state with more than 3.2 million eligible voters showed up to cast a vote.

Today's governor was chosen by 511,374 Kentuckians.

Whether you are a fan of the incumbent governor or not, we can all agree that voter apathy is a problem. No number of yard signs, t-shirts, buttons or catchy slogans mean anything if people do not show up to vote.

This week, the Kentucky Secretary of State's office reported that 3,451,537 are registered to vote in the Commonwealth. People need to participate in the process.

As a society we have retreated to our camps and decry anything to which we disagree with a knee-jerk slogan -- refusing to even discuss many issues.

Being able to talk to one another and explore a disagreement without rhetoric or shouting is a tool we should take down off the shelf and knock the dust off of.

Today and after Election Day, we should find a way to utilize that tool regularly.

If you do nothing else today, please go vote. Vote in your pajamas, in your coveralls on the way to the deer stand or in your sweats on your way to the gym. Just vote.

Go vote. Then, stay informed and involved.

Brandon Cox is the publisher of the Kentucky New Era, Oak Grove Eagle Post and Cadiz Record in Christian and Trigg Counties. He can be reached by email to bcox@kentuckynewera.com. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonJCox.

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