Some political observers have called this November's election the most important in United States history.
You wouldn't know it by looking at South Dakota's voter registration numbers. With only about two-and-one-half months to go before the Nov. 6 election, fewer people have registered to vote in South Dakota than were registered in 2008. There are 3.2 percent fewer registered voters in the state than four years ago, a drop of 16,841 people.
More South Dakotans are abandoning party labels and are choosing to register as independents. According to figures by the South Dakota Secretary of State's office, voters who have registered as independents increased by 7.5 percent, or 6,253, over 2008.
By contrast, both Democrats and Republicans have fewer registered voters than four years ago. Registered Republicans have dipped 2 percent, or 4,622, while Democrats have lost 18,732 voters, or about 9 percent.
It's understandable that many people are becoming turned off by the partisan bickering and are registering as independents. The hyper-partisanship has only increased in the last four years.
There could many reasons for the drop in voter registration from 2008. Four years ago, the possible election of the nation's first black president in Barack Obama excited the electorate, especially Democrats. Is there less enthusiasm for Obama this time around?
Also, in 2008, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., were facing re-election. This year, the only statewide contest is between Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and Democrat Matt Varilek.
The last time that South Dakotans cast their electoral votes for a Democratic presidential candidate was 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson was re-elected in a landslide. Even favorite son George McGovern couldn't carry his home state in 1972. Republicans outnumber Democrats in South Dakota by 50,865 voters, so the trend may continue this year.
It's disappointing to see fewer people participating in the democratic process by not registering to vote. It's easy to become cynical about politics and politicians, but apathy is not the answer.
Fortunately, there is still plenty of time to register before the Nov. 6 election. Between now and November, be sure to do your civic duty and register to vote.