By NEMS Daily Journal
Secretary of State’ Delbert Hosemann’s constant drumbeat for turnout in Tuesday’s mid-term election is a point well made.
Mississippi’s voter drop-off rate from a presidential year to a mid-term year is appalling even though the U.S. House seats lose none of their importance regardless of who holds them, and the other mid-term votes include judicial races – and school trustees where they’re elected, not appointed.
In 2006, the last mid-term election, voter turnout in Mississippi was only 29.41 percent, which means that a small minority of eligible electors decided who would represent us in Washington, who would sit on the state’s benches, and who would govern many of our state’s school districts.
That appalling participation concerns both major parties and, of course, independents who count on drawing votes not strongly aligned with either party and not attached to affiliated candidates.
Mississippians did better by themselves in 2008, a presidential year made more historic because the ballot included the first African-American presidential candidate, and for only the second time, a woman running for vice president: 61.5 percent of the voters turned out, and the total vote was above 1.2 million in a voting age population of 2.176 million.
The vote was 687,266 for Republican nominee John McCain and 520,864 for Democrat Barack Obama, who was elected.
The magnet at the top of the ticket is absent this year, but the down-ticket offices are as important as the top. Mississippians in fact will have more influence and access with their votes for congressional candidates and other off-year offices simply because they exclusively involve Mississippians.
In addition to the obvious preferences involved in mid-term elections there’s also the idea of a citizen’s duty.
Every campaign advertisement and every speech is hinged on the idea and hope that eligible electors care enough to involve themselves in the most basic and necessary act of self-governance: voting.
Voting isn’t a celebrity event; it’s a responsibility of citizenship.
Mississippi doesn’t allow early voting and requires a little more effort than some states which make casting a ballot convenient and efficient, but going to a polling precinct isn’t a major effort with a 12-hour window of opportunity. Allowances are made for the infirm and for legitimate absentee voting.
In 2008, in the 1st Congressional District, more than 330,000 people voted. All the candidates on Tuesday’s ballots want to see that same kind of turnout because they believe that a big turnout favors their candidacies.
Only one will be elected to the U.S. House, one for each judge’s seat, one for each school board seat, and one in every special election.
The power of one matters in voting. It is a right for all qualified people. It is a responsibility of citizenship, whether native-born or naturalized.
The heartbeat of our national electoral health will be felt Tuesday.
Americans who normally only vote during presidential elections should break that bad habit and continue choosing to govern themselves.