Voted yet?

We only really have one question for you as you read today’s editorial:

Have you voted yet?

It’s election day. For months you’ve been bombarded by ads hyping or demonizing candidates. Well, they’ve had their say. We’ve said what we think and who we endorse. Now it’s your turn.

This is your chance to have your voice heard. To quote from Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address, the questions that face us are “being now decided by the voice of the nation.”

Such a thing is not so unusual today as it was when Jefferson was elected and the United States was a new country. The fact much of the world now embraces governments that emphasize free and fair elections as the basis of legitimacy can tempt us to think this is the way it must be — that nothing can alter the fundamental fact of American freedoms.

Few things could be further from the truth. Look to history, as democracies across Europe ripped themselves apart in the 1920s and 1930s. Witness the fading of democratic institutions in Poland, barely 30 years removed from its own Communist dictatorship, or the anti-democratic trends present in Turkey, a NATO ally.

The fact is that democracy endures only as long as we actively allow it to do so. Those same rights we enjoy impose upon us responsibilities.

And among the most fundamental of these is voting.

It is entirely possible to have the trappings of democracy without any of the essence. Sham elections are part and parcel of many regimes. The worldwide consensus has become that governments must have the consent of their people, and even open dictators usually resort to elections that are neither free nor fair in order to claim — however implausibly — they enjoy that legitimacy.

So, have you voted yet? Have you taken the time to back your candidates in the one way that matters beyond the background noise?

Take the time. Make the effort. All indications are that, nationally, Americans are doing so in greater numbers than have been seen for some time in a midterm election. Early voting and the rise of absentee ballots put real numbers on what would otherwise be a much more vague impression.

But most of the votes are still cast at the ballot box today. This is when races are decided, when the future of our governmental bodies is set, at least for the next few years.

This is when your voice matters.