Yesterday I was working at Shelby GOP headquarters when two people from Fox 13 News came. They wanted to do a story about the election, highlighting that despite the low turnout for early voting, there was still political activity.
Reporter Les Smith talked to us while the camera man shot pictures of us attaching labels and stuffing envelopes. He said he was puzzled why there is so much voter apathy. A small number of early voters had made the effort, but the overall turnout among eligible voters would probably be only 12%. Why?
We all agreed that politics is something that affects every citizen. It affects our schools, our families, our property, our safety, our businesses, our health. Yet people can’t seem to get interested. If they do, it’s often after the fact; after taxes or fees have been hiked, workers fired or schools changed. Then they get mad.
Funny, too, that people don’t vote when it is so easy. Most of us can walk to our precinct. When we get there, the lines are usually short, the workers efficient. Having worked several elections, I have seen workers bend over backwards to help the voter. If a person is at the wrong precinct, maps are printed out for them with the correct one. If there is a doubt about a voter, the officer of elections will check on it in every way possible. Any dubious ballot gets put aside, so that they can later count it if proved authentic. There are helpers for blind and deaf people. There are even organizations that will help give a voter a ride to the precinct. We don’t have to brave bombings or attacks as they did in Iraq.
Still, apathy reigns. Why?
We bandied around explanations. One person thought the media did not cover elections well enough. However, the Commercial Appeal printed the ballot twice for this election. The voter should at least make some effort to find out about the issues, and it isn’t hard when you can turn on the TV, too.
Maybe it’s because we are so bombarded with information today. You sit at your computer and there is so much on whatever topic you’re interested in that it’s overwhelming. People are concerned about their jobs and often take it home with them. Others follow music or entertainment and that’s a world of its own.
Smith talked about the incivility today. He said in all the years he covered City Hall he has never seen it so contentious and rude. For some, that alone is a turnoff. It shouldn’t be.
Whatever the excuse, it’s a local and national tragedy. We don’t appreciate what our forefathers earned for us, through blood, sweat and tears. I guess you don’t until it’s gone.