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Why does my vote matter?

by Gene Haley Guest column | December 22, 2019 at 3:00 a.m.

Why does my vote matter? Will voters in big cities decide who wins? Why should I bother to vote? How do I know what news stories to believe? During each election cycle, all these questions and many more run through everyone's mind at some point.

Most people have heard the phrase "All elections are local," but do they understand what that means? What it means is that every vote counts, so every vote matters. We may live in a small state in terms of electoral votes, but enough small states voicing their opinion together make a difference. The Electoral College process is what makes our votes matter, nationally.

Locally, candidates, whether for city, county, or state offices, and even school board, are typically elected by a small percentage of registered voters. Local issues, especially tax issues, are the same. In the special election for the Majestic Park Baseball Complex, 8% of registered voters decided how much tax money was spent on a bond issue. School millage elections, setting property tax rates, are determined by a similar percentage of voters. The one that gets their people out to vote normally wins.

In presidential election years, the primary election garners a lower number of voters than the general election. This is because some voters wait until they have fewer choices to make their decision, and some do not understand the primary election process in Arkansas.

Many states require a voter to register a political party affiliation; Arkansas does not. Of the approximately 66,000 registered voters in Garland County, fewer than 4,000 are registered as either Democrat or Republican -- most are listed as optional.

All voters, regardless of party, may choose which party's primary election they wish to vote in, for that election cycle. Voters may choose either primary election, but if a runoff occurs in one primary election, only voters that chose that party's primary election, along with any voters that did not vote in the original primary election, may vote. Nonpartisan candidates (judges, prosecutors, and school board) are listed on all ballots.

In a general election (November), voters make their choice regardless of the political party, but in primary elections (March), voters can only choose one primary election to vote in, so you only see that party's candidates.

Opinion polls have proved to be inaccurate, so it is up to each of us to choose the candidate that we feel will do the best job, knowing that next election cycle we will be able to vote them out if we don't think they did what we elected them to do.

Your vote does matter, so get out and vote every time it's possible. Don't let someone else decide for you. People in many other countries would love to be able to vote for their choices.

Gene Haley is the chairman of the Garland County Election Commission.

Editorial on 12/22/2019

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