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Voting is something that should be cherished

More times than I can recount, I and others at The Post have taken pen to paper and discussed the importance of voting.

I and others have written stories previewing elections, reporting on results and documenting turnout from an election. And, each time we have talked about election turnout, we have reported turnout figures many would consider disappointing.

When election officials hope for more than 30 percent of registered voters turning out for an election, that is tragic. Knowing that a vast majority of registered voters decided to stay away from the polls is not something worthy of celebration.

Thursday, a sister newspaper of The Post in Salisbury, N.C. wrote an editorial where they asked a very interesting question.

“Does low turnout create representative government?” was the headline of an opinion piece published by the Salisbury Post.

As someone who loves history and civics, I found the question fascinating and it made me wonder, is what we have in our city, our county, our state and our nation a true representative democracy if less than a majority — way less — of registered voters turn out for an election?

The answer is yes. The founding fathers did not place a minimum turnout requirement in the Constitution.

For those who do their civic duty and cast a ballot — a process that might take all of five minutes — they are active participants. For those who make a choice to do something else on election day instead of voting, they are passive participants, but participants all the same.

Their non-votes add up in locking in whichever candidate wins, but do so without saying a word, without taking part and failing to live up to one of the core responsibilities of a citizen. They choose to not choose.

But, when the polls close and the decision is announced, they complain about the result. When an elected official makes a decision they disagree with, they complain about the decision.

There are those who often say “if you do not vote, then you cannot complain.” I disagree. The First Amendment allows for free speech, even if that speech is hypocritical.

Then again, if there wasn’t complaining on one side of the political divide or the other, then most of cable news would slip away.

Larry Joseph Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia and a political analyst, said “every election is determined by the people who show up.”

Professor Sabato is correct, but his statement falls in line with a sports commentator saying the team who won the game tonight was the one who scored more points. Of course, an election is determined by those who show up.

There is a desperate need for more people to show up, to get off the bench and get into the game of choosing our elected leaders.

Why anyone would leave such a decision up to others is beyond me. I want to have a say in who my representatives are and I want others to have that same passion.

An argument some make is that their vote does not count, which when made in the case of local elections is completely wrong.

In the 2017 municipal elections in Vicksburg, current South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour unseated Willis Thompson by just eight votes. Do you think Thompson would have wanted nine more of his supporters to turn out on election day? I think so.

In November 2015, during the general election, John Arnold defeated Ed Herring by just 54 votes in the race for the District 1 seat on the Warren County Board of Supervisors. I would bet there were 55 Herring supporters in that district who decided not to vote on that day.

Those two face off again in Tuesday’s general election. Who will get their supporters to show up this time?

Elections are too important to leave to someone else. They are too important to not participate in.

Whether you are voting in a municipal election or voting during a year when the race for president is on the ballot, the vote you cast is precious.

It is how you speak in our form of representative government.

 

Tim Reeves is editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at tim.reeves@vicksburgpost.com.

About Tim Reeves

Tim Reeves, and his wife Stephanie, are the parents of three children, Sarah Cameron, Clayton and Fin, who all attend school in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The family are members of First Baptist Church Vicksburg. Tim is involved in a number of civic and volunteer organizations including the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the City of Vicksburg's Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.

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