Apathy Candidate forum turnout disturbing

Published 1:02 am Sunday, October 30, 2011

The strength of any republic is the ability of the people to cast informed votes to chart the direction of governance from president all the way down to county tax collector. The people’s right to vote is a right for which thousands of Americans have given their lives from the birth of this nation to the current overseas operations in the Middle East.

Freedom, it is so often said, is not free at all.

The only way to preserve a viable republic is to have an informed, educated electorate. Judging by last Saturday’s Louisiana elections and a public forum featuring candidates in Vicksburg, that preservation is threatened.

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In Louisiana, where races were open to choose the governor on down to local parish sheriffs, only one in three registered voters cast a ballot. Early voting numbers were up. Why? LSU had a home football game on Saturday. Priorities. Even so, a game lasts a few hours and it takes only a couple of minutes to vote. The fact that two of three stayed home is pathetic and reeks of apathy.

But Louisiana’s 33 percent voting looked stellar compared to the response of Warren County voters at two public forums. Ten days ago, 30 people showed up at City Auditorium. On Thursday, about 50 attended a forum at the courthouse. In a county with 30,771 voters on the roles, the number of attendees is staggeringly low.

Come on! A public forum that has almost as many voters as candidates in attendance? That is simply pathetic.

To the approximate 1 percent who braved the 60-degree temperatures and clear skies to question candidates about the future of this county, we salute you. To the 99 percent who did not take the time to at least hear the differences, we scold you. How can a community function if so many people seem indifferent to an upcoming election?

The election is scheduled for Nov. 8, 10 days from now. At that time, positions in county government from supervisor to tax assessor to circuit clerk and sheriff will be decided. We would love to believe that votes will be cast after much forethought. But we are skeptical that the people of this county care enough about our future to make such informed decisions.

If the attendance at that public forum is any indication of the importance of this election to the future of Warren County, we are in serious trouble.

Apathy. Pathetic. Those words sound so much alike.

And both apply to the voters in Warren County and Louisiana.