Only in­formed vot­ers, please

The Covington News - - Front page -

I fa­vor low voter turnout.

Ev­ery elec­tion year there is col­lec­tive self­flag­el­la­tion about low voter turn-out, es­pe­cially dur­ing pri­mary sea­son in a non-pres­i­den­tial year. Let’s look at some per­cent­ages for those el­i­gi­ble to vote in the past three elec­tions. In 2008, 61.7 per­cent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers showed up at the polls. In Ge­or­gia that num­ber was 61.5 per­cent. In 2004, the pre­vi­ous pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the fig­ure for the U.S. was 60.1 per­cent and for Ge­or­gia it was 56.2 per­cent. Look­ing at a non-pres­i­den­tial year, 2006, 40.4 per­cent for the U.S. and a measly 34.7 per­cent of Ge­or­gians both­ered to vote. (I didn’t in­clude pri­mary vot­ing per­cent­ages be­cause the num­bers for the U.S. and Ge­or­gia in non-pres­i­den­tial years are not avail­able)

So, col­lec­tively, we feel guilty — for many, not guilty enough to vote, ev­i­dently. While cam­paign­ing for a can­di­date in the July 20 pri­mary, a friend asked the res­i­dent of a home why he had the sign for can­di­date X in front of his home. “Oh, I won’t vote for him” was the re­sponse, “but he did some work for my daddy once.” Is that the cor­rect mo­ti­va­tion to dis­play a can­di­date’s sign in­fer­ring that you sup­port Mr. X? Ask­ing oth­ers why they will vote for can­di­date Y, they re­sponded, “She knocked on my door” and handed out lit­er­a­ture. No in­di­ca­tion that the hand­out was read? And of­ten the vot­ing re­sults can be at­trib­uted to the num­ber of yard signs, which are cur­rently grow­ing like weeds in Newton County.

Re­cently, an un­known can­di­date in the South Carolina Demo­cratic pri­mary got the most votes. Alvin Greene is an outof-work mil­i­tary vet who raised no money, bought no ads and put up no signs. His op­po­nent…Vic Rawl. Nownote these two names be­cause they are im­por­tant, not be­cause they are known or un­known, not be­cause they have money or be­cause they have friends in high places. On the bal­lot, Greene comes be­fore Rawl.

It has been rather com­mon knowl­edge for years that it is im­por­tant to have your name first on the list of can­di­dates in a par­tic­u­lar race. Jon A. Kres­nich, a colum­nist, has re­searched name place­ment on bal­lots. The re­sults… on av­er­age, the first name gar­ners two per­cent more votes than those fur­ther down on the bal­lot. So, if it was a 49 to 51 de­feat, it could flip the loss into a win, 51-49. Krenick’s re­search prompted him to con­clude that “In fact, in about half the races I have stud­ied, the ad­van­tage of first place is even big­ger — cer­tainly big enough to win some elec­tions these days… Based on the more than 100 elec­tions in Ohio that a col­league and I stud­ied, it’s when vot­ers know lit­tle or noth­ing about the can­di­dates, or when the can­di­dates’ party af­fil­i­a­tions are not listed on the bal­lot, or when the in­cum­bent (whom vot­ers typ­i­cally know at least some­what) is not run­ning for re-elec- tion. Thus, some vot­ers ap­par­ently feel an obli­ga­tion or de­sire to vote even when they have no ba­sis for choos­ing a can­di­date and are drawn to the first name they read.”

So, adding up these ex­am­ples and the re­search stated above, the ob­vi­ous con­clu­sion is that we are bet­ter off with only in­formed cit­i­zens vot­ing, those who have taken the time to look at how each can­di­date stacks up on the is­sues of most im­por­tance re­gard­less of party.

One more thing: One would hope that an elected of­fi­cial will change his or her mind on an is­sue as ev­i­dence presents a com­pelling case against the po­si­tion pre­vi­ously held. So, I would sug­gest, that the in­formed voter in­vest time (this is an in­vest­ment in good govern­ment) get­ting a feel for the can­di­dates in­tegrity, in­tel­li­gence, sin­cer­ity, his­tory, be­liev­abil­ity…those things that are held in high re­gard…those things that are im­por­tant qual­i­ties in any­one, cer­tainly in your rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

If you have read this col­umn, you are most likely an in­formed voter. Please vote in the July 20 pri­mary. Early vot­ing is now avail­able.

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