Voting requires more than showing up

Published 11:11 pm Friday, November 5, 2010

Great job to Marengo County voters for making it out to the polls Tuesday. Voter turnout for any election is almost always sluggish. That problem is even more evident during mid-term elections where most citizens overlook the importance of Senate and gubernatorial races.

Often individuals forego their right to vote and their role in the democratic process during such elections, doing themselves and their communities a disservice in the process.

That was not a problem for Marengo County voters this time around.

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Marengo County had 8,972 of its citizens cast a ballot Tuesday. That number may not seem like very much to some people, but it is a significant improvement over the voter turnout numbers during the 2006 gubernatorial election.

During that mid-term election, Marengo County saw 7,205 of its citizens exercise their American privilege.

So during an election cycle in which the only local race that drew any notable pre-election day buzz was for sheriff, getting nearly 9,000 people to cast ballots is a great achievement.

But a quick study of the Marengo County voter turnout numbers produces two alarming statistics that point toward one uncomfortable truth.

Many in Marengo County are exercising their right to vote, but probably should not be.

Voting is a lot like having a child. Just because you can, does not necessarily mean you should.

The ability to create a child does not dictate the ability to care for a child. In the same fashion, the ability to drive to a polling place, show one’s identification and connect arrows on a ballot does not dictate an informed decision.

More than half of Marengo County voters offered reason to doubt their knowledge of the candidates and issues in this election cycle by casting straight party tickets. Of the 8,972 ballots cast Tuesday, 5,356 were marked straight party.

Political affiliations are fine. They are one of the luxuries guaranteed by this great country. But to vote a straight party ticket in a local election and give no consideration to each individual race seems irresponsible at best.

Of the 30 spots up for grabs on Marengo County ballots, 29 went to Democrats. The lone Republican winner ran unopposed. That divide is just fine if more voters genuinely wanted each of those 30 winners in office.

But the fact that 3,882 straight party ballots were cast in favor of Democrats seems as if it would make it nearly impossible for anyone to run as Republican in Marengo County.

More than anything, it points to the probability that more than half of Marengo County voters showed up to the polls, showed their ID, connected one arrow with little concern regarding the individual races or the impact their vote might have and went on about their day.

The right to vote is a privilege that carries with is a certain responsibility to be informed as to what one is actually helping to decide.

The absence of that knowledge among many Marengo County voters is evidenced even more by the fact that none of the four proposed statewide amendments had less than 2,600 under votes Tuesday.

In total there were 12,243 under votes on statewide amendments in Marengo County.

That translates to thousands of voters who did not know enough about any of the four amendments in order to form an opinion on the matter at hand. That is nothing short of alarming.

Exercising the right to vote without knowing the candidates and the issues is like brandishing a loaded firearm without proper training. Eventually, someone is going to get hurt.

So good job to the nearly 9,000 Marengo Countians that took the time to get out and vote. But next go-round, make it a point to be informed on the issues and the races before getting to the polls.

And if you still want to cast a straight party ballot or neglect to vote on a particular proposed amendment, then at least you will have made an informed decision.

Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of the Demopolis Times