Thursday, May 04, 2006

A chrome-plated lining to low voter turnout cloud?

There’s not much good to come from low voter turnout. It says something about our political culture – either voters are turned off by politics as usual, or they just don’t care enough to vote – when turnout is bad. Elections officials believe barely 9.5 percent of registered voters took part in Tuesday’s primary elections – a record low.
There’s no silver lining to this cloud, but there may be at least a chrome-plated one: The low turnout made it easier for state and local election officials to give new voting machines their first test.
“I hate to say publicly that low turnout helped us,” said state elections director Gary Bartlett, “but I do say that it will help us be ready for the General Elections.”
Had this been a big turnout, it might have made elections officials’ jobs harder. The pressure of long lines waiting to vote always makes things more difficult at polling places.
In the main, Bartlett said, “Things did go well.” That’s encouraging because last summer the General Assembly ordered up new voting machines after some dramatic failures of existing voting systems, including the loss of 4,438 machines in Carteret County that required a new election. The State Board of Elections had barely enough time to request proposals for new machines, approve vendors, deal with the decision of Diebold not to participate, get machines in stock and train local officials in their use.
Bartlett, the veteran director of elections, says fewer than 25 memory cards failed, less than one-sixth the number he expected in the new machines.
The new law requires that ballots be counted one of three ways – by optical scanning, electronic device or by hand. Officials believe every vote was accurately counted in this election. “There were no votes we’re aware of that were lost at all,” Bartlett said.
That may be a crucial factor in restoring public trust in the democratic process – and in the government’s ability to do its job. The voting problems in Florida in the 2000 presidential race created a lot of distrust and hostility to government; if Tuesday’s North Carolina primary went as well as officials believe, then elections officials in Raleigh have done a first-rate job of fixing what was wrong.
In a sector where so many news stories tell about what’s wrong with government, it’s good to note when things work right, too.
Now, if things will just go as well when there’s a large voter turnout.

8 comments:

Jack Betts said...

Here a reply from Ed Stone, who gave his blessing to posting here:

You write, "There’s not much good to come from low voter turnout. It says
something about our political culture – either voters are turned off by
politics as usual, or they just don’t care enough to vote ".

Or just possibly, as we always hoped for Linus, he has finally figured out
that no matter how hard he runs and how hard he tries, Lucy is going to
pull the ball away. On the local scene, the referendum vote and promises of
taxes for "land and infrastructure only". The voter's will wasn't very
important then, so why now? Then there is Bush the First's "read my lips,
no new taxes". And Bush the Second's "we should not be in the business of
nation building" and "we need to be more humble in our foreign affairs" and
of course, I'm still looking for that "lockbox" and those "weapons of mass
destruction" and Iraqi Al Queda connections that were a "slam dunk". And
Clinton's "middle class tax cut" -- I'm still looking for that one too,
along with the "most ethical White House in history".

Admitting to be a voter is like confessing that you regularly spend the
rent money trying to win the stuffed bear at the carnival by throwing
softballs at bowling pins. Democrat is no more different from Republican
than Pop Secret is from Orville Redenbacher. How is a chicken supposed to
get excited about being able to choose a red fox or a blue fox?

In our next presidential election, it now seems we will be able to select
the pro-PATRIOT-Act and pro-Iraqi-War-Resolution candidate of our choice.
Locally, we will be able to select the pro-tax-increase and pro-density
candidates of our choice, their pronouncements notwithstanding.

While you may believe that what our elected politicians do is important, I
don't understand how anyone can ignore the near total disconnect between
what politicians sell us versus what they deliver. In the business arena,
they would be shut down by the FTC for fraud. The tacit acceptance by the
press of politician's timing of tax and fee increases versus elections is
tawdry. Casting a vote exerts no pressure toward correcting this scam.
Instead, it only wraps it in the appearance of "the will of the people".

If you promote buying pop corn that time after time doesn't pop, at what
point are you complicit in the fraud? If you ran an advertisement for the
lottery, wouldn't you require a statement along the lines of "the liklihood
of getting what you've been led to hope for from this expenditure is
extremely remote"?

Regards,

-------------------------------
Ed Stone

Anonymous said...

I believe we should require anyone who wants to "do business" with the state to vote in all elections. This "business" would be any interaction with the state: whether it be to gain a business license, a driver's license, or to apply for food stamps. It's not required that you vote, but if you want to engage yourself with our government, you should particpate in choosing who leads us.

We have terrible leaders because only the fringe vote. If most people voted, leaders would emerge who would not be beholden to the fanatics of both the Republican and Democratic parties.

rebecca said...

Remember the day after the schools bonds failed? The first words out the politicos lips were plans on how to buy the bonds without getting voters permission. And how it was "perfectly legal" but that they could not get as much! That says to me that who/what we vote for is just a formality -- I used to not only vote every election but actually campaign for the candidates I believed in. I believe in nobody now. The fact that you are running for office makes you automatically corrupt and evil in my mind, and makes me think you want only to steal my money and my freedom in order to be a "big shot" and grant yourself more power. They all stink and I will vote for none of them.

Frank Burns said...

I usually vote every election but as a registered Republican, there wasn't much to vote on this time. It's hard to get excited about voting for a judge.

In the previous election there were several nice juicy issues. I had the opportunity to vote no on the school bonds and to vote the rascals off of the school board. I was gratified to see the school bonds get defeated but dismayed to see the clowns on the school board re-elected. I wonder if the people who voted to re-elect them regret their vote?

I would have made the extra effort to vote if there was something meaningful to vote on.

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