Our view: Voting: a right, an obligation, an opportunity

June 4, 2013 9:40:02 AM



It's been just eight days since we paused to honor the memory of those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms and rights that we, as Americans, continue to enjoy. Those sacrifices, duly noted during our Memorial Day observances, have preserved for us a government of the people, for the people and by the people, as Lincoln so eloquently stated. 


But could it be that we, as Americans, diminish those sacrifices by holding those fought-and-died-for rights in so little regard?  


Today is election day and, if the primary election of a month ago is any indication, just one in four registered voters will bother to exercise one of our country's most cherished rights. It is a sad commentary, indeed. 


In Columbus, voters will choose a mayor and a councilman for Ward 2. In Starkville, voters will choose a mayor. 


Often, we view the vote as a right. That is true, of course, but it goes beyond that. The vote is an obligation. You will either choose to meet that obligation or you will shirk that duty.  


In the case of these elections, your vote is not just a right to be exercised and an obligation to be met, but a real opportunity to have a voice in how your community is governed. 


In a very real sense, your vote may indeed make a difference, especially in light of how some off the recent municipal elections turned out. 


In Ward 4 of Columbus, the primary election was so closely contested that only six votes separated the top two vote-getters after absentee ballots were counted. In the run-off for that ward position, challenger Marty Turner defeated incumbent Fred Stewart by 24 votes. 


In Starkville, the importance of a single vote was even more dramatic. In the Ward 4 primary, Jason Walker and John Gaskin battled to a dead heat when the counting ended on election night. When the affidavit ballots were counted, Walker had won by a scant four votes. Gaskin is protesting that vote with hopes of having the matter settled by yet another election. The race for Ward 2 alderman was just as evenly contested. Incumbent Sandra Sistrunk held a two-vote margin over Lisa Wynn on election night, but the affidavit ballots contained enough questions to force another election. In that election, Wynn emerged with a 20-vote victory. 


A few votes in any of those elections could have produced a different outcome.  


Who knows but that a similar scenario might emerge tonight? 


It is quite possible that your vote could be the decisive vote whether you cast your ballot or you don't. 


It is for that reason that we urge those who have yet to vote to exercise their right, meet their obligation. 


The men and women whose memory we honored eight days ago certainly never shirked their duty, not even in the face of death. 


What, then, stands as a valid reason that we should shirk our duty at the polls? 


We can think of no reason at all. 


The polls are open until 7. 


Embrace your right. Do your duty. Make a difference.