HANDHELD DEMOCRACY

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

While we, members of and believers in the Fourth Estate, appreciate the sentiment of the cartoon above, and agree it has merit, we can't run with the overblown idea that an evolving media landscape poses the absolute gravest danger to U.S. democracy.

The editorial board would counter that threat is, and has always been, internal and self-inflicted -- voter apathy. (You can probably guess where this is going.)

Less than 20 percent of Kentucky's electorate turned out for the May 21 primary election. It was a low-voltage ballot, yes, with no local races, but important nonetheless because it included a party challenge for Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and three rivals seeking the Democratic nomination.

Statewide turnout wasn't all that different from McCracken County's showing. The clerk's office reported 8,762 people voted in the primary, or 17 percent of eligible voters.

None of this was unexpected.

The percentage of participating voters -- the true stewards of our democracy -- was actually a tick higher than election officials anticipated, sad commentary and a hollow victory against low expectations.

Commentators have been beating this same drum on lackluster voter turnout for years now, chastising people for failing in their civic duty, the pundits' sermons usually accompanied by quotes like:

• "The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all."

• "Every election is determined by the people who show up."

• "The future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter."

All of these statements are cliche, but true, no argument. And yet people have read the words, and many others like them, and still aren't voting.

If we, as a nation, truly want this republic's future "in the hands of the American voter," we have to put it where there's no chance they'll miss it -- in their phones.

Whether it's progress or not, we can't say, but it's absolutely true the world runs on our phones.

We communicate, digest news and information, shop, bank, make appointments, and document our lives through these addictive, overly priced, critical gadgets.

And that means we should be able to vote using them.

We're not suggesting online voting replace traditional methods but complement them. Pluralism, after all, is a point of pride in the U.S.

Opponents would likely argue that online voting raises the risk of foreign interference via hacking.

Foreign governments are going to try -- 2016, anyone? -- regardless of the methods, so maybe we bet that moving the bulk of balloting online fosters new technology with improved security.

It's our contention that voter turnout isn't going to improve on its own -- it needs an innovative jolt for revival, one some might paint as radical, but which we consider pragmatic.

At this point, the risks are minimal. We can't think of a better way to make voting as easy, convenient and all-encompassing as possible, likely providing a truer picture of the people's will.

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