Our View: Apathy no excuse for appallingly low voter turnout




For some time now, our national politics has been a blood sport where anything goes - from gerry-mandering of congressional districts to voter suppression tactics to what appears to soliciting the aid of a foreign country to influence an American election. 


The ends always seems to justify the means. 


Perhaps that is one reason why the approval rate for Congress flutters between the high teens and low 20s: We have lost respect for and confidence in the people who represent us in Washington. Nothing they do there seems relevant to our lives. Partisanship prevails for policy and no real good can come of it. 


The people we send to Congress disappoint us and the idea that whoever we send to D.C. can make a meaningful change has become a quaint, almost naive, notion. 


It's easy to give in and give up, which is what appears to be happening. 


Tuesday, Mississippi held congressional elections, with party primaries for the U.S. Senate and, in Noxubee County and part of Oktibbeha County, for the Third Congressional District House of Representatives. 


Even though the ballot was limited - if you voted Republican in Lowndes County, there was just one contested race and it wasn't much of a contest - the lack of interest was appallingly low. Just 10.2 percent of registered voters in Lowndes County bothered to go to the polls. It wasn't much better in Noxubee County (13.5 percent) or Clay County (10.5). Oktibbeha County's vote totals were incomplete Wednesday morning due to computer problems in two precincts, but that turn-out figured to be low as well. 


In three weeks, the run-off elections will be held where the turn-out will be even lower, which is an embarrassment. Never will so much be decided by so few. 


It will be interesting to see if that sort of indifference prevails in November's general election when both U.S. Senate races and all four House seats will be decided. 


The turn-out will be better, certainly. It would almost have to be. 


But it is unlikely that who we send to Washington will represent the wishes of the majority of Mississippians. 


In countries still relatively new to democracy, it is not uncommon for 80 or 90 percent of the voters to cast ballots. In November, it would be surprising if that turn-out reaches 60 percent in our nation. 


The people we send to Washington bear some responsibility for that. 


But when citizens fail to use the one option at their disposal to have a real say in how our nation is governed - the vote - we bear an even greater responsibility. 


We lose what we do not cherish. 


In November, we will know just how much - or how little - our right to vote matters.



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