Primary elections were held last Tuesday. Locally, voter turnout was quite low – not uncommonly low, but somewhat surprising when considering the races on the ballot. Trigg County voters had the chance to determine which candidate would represent the Democrat and Republican parties in November’s elections for sheriff, county clerk and property valuation administrator. The jailer’s race was decided within the Primary itself.
The sheriff’s race featured a well-known contender and a controversial incumbent. The next county clerk will be, for the first time in over two decades, a person with no previous employment experience at any level in the clerk’s office.
And yet, turnout was still low.
This troubles me – and it should you, too. I’ll admit that I’m ready to debate at anytime about some state and most national elections being a waste of time until our broken system of government is fixed, but local elections matter every time. These are the people that have a direct impact on your day-to-day life in this community.
Lots of people like to complain about the job done by these elected officials, but when the time comes to hit the polls, they’re nowhere to be found.
Why is that? Here, to me, are two prime reasons.
In general, people think they know many things, but the reality is that they do not know many things.
– Several voters last week were upset to learn that they would not be able to vote for the races they expected. Why? Because they had changed their party affiliation multiple times and couldn’t remember which one was current.
Ignorance. How you treat your party affiliation is your business, but if you’re going to flip-flop, maybe you shouldn’t do it so much that you forget which side is up.
– At least one voter blamed the Trigg County Clerk’s Office for the inability to vote in ALL races in the Primary. Of course, this was somehow President Obama’s fault, as well.
Ignorance. How long have Primary elections been held the way they currently are in Kentucky? I’m not saying it’s right, but there have been no significant changes to Primary voting protocols in ages.
Also, how is the Trigg County Clerk’s Office supposed to handle such a conflict when it isn’t broached until the day of the election? My mother is the county clerk, and I can guarantee you, she does not have Obama’s phone number.
(Not that it would matter if she did. This is a battle for another day, but folks, read this: Obama has little-to-no immediate impact on the majority of the things you blame him for. Same went for George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and on down the line. Got a problem? Look at the Senate.)
This shoud probably be ahead of “Ignorance” on my list. Unfortunately, most non-voters just don’t care enough to get out and vote. Like it or not, the right to vote goes both ways – it’s a right, not a mandate.
That leaves each election in the hands of the informed and the ignorant. And what’s even scarier – there is a segment of the ignorant who are convinced that they are informed.
What can we do about these problems? On a national level, not much without somehow managing to get a majority of voters on the same page. With each election, I move closer to voting not for who I think will do the best job individually, but for who will move the House and Senate toward control for one party. At least then, regardless of which party, things are more likely to get done without the constant threat of gridlock.
Locally, the informed need to become informers for the ignorant – so they better understand the process – and the apathetic – so they better understand its importance.
Justin McGill is the general manager of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.