Recent conversations and Letters to the Editor have suggested that voters are "dumb," ignorant, uninformed, ill-informed, apathetic, or easily swayed. Although some voters may fall into some of those categories, they are by no means the majority. Voters are not ignorant; sometimes they aren't presented with choices that they like.
It is true that some voters show up without knowing what is on the ballot, but they know it is their right to vote, and they don't want to lose that right by not voting. However, most voters have made the effort to vote for or against a particular candidate or issue. Many elections only offer the choices of the "lesser of two evils" and voters must choose not necessarily the one they like, but the one that they dislike the least, or the one they feel will do less harm.
Voters who are not aware of ballot content are a small but often noticeable minority. This portion of voters shows up at the polls without knowing what is on the ballot. They take a long time to decide how to vote or are visibly confused and they give the impression of being a larger group than they really are.
A larger portion of the voting public is predisposed to investigate and study each candidate or issue on their ballot. These voters understand the voting process and election dates and make their decisions before entering the polls. These voters are the ones who determine elections. The only way to ensure a true democracy is to have a well-informed voting public.
Another portion, once informed by media notices, word of mouth, or by other means, that an election is being held, chooses candidates and issues that are important to them, but might not be well-informed on others, and often don't vote on every race or issue. Basically, it is the candidate or issue proponent's duty to present their case to the voting public. Avid readers of local newspapers are better informed than non-readers, but with the changes occurring in the newspaper industry, information is harder to disseminate. Reliance on social media for information often leads to misinformation or inaccurate facts.
The last portion of voters are the ones who don't exercise their right to vote. This is where the real problem lies. Voter turnout rarely hits 50 percent of registered voters, and that does not include the estimated 20 percent of the population that is eligible to vote, but do not register.
Of course, how a person has voted is personal information, and cannot be determined. Only based on the outcome can we reach these conclusions. Garland County elections are secure, and the outcome is the people's choice, whether you agree with that choice or not.
During the 2016 presidential election, with elevated interest in the outcome, many people attempted to vote but were no longer registered due to not participating in past elections, some not for 20 years or more. It is the voter's responsibility to ensure their voter registration is current, and the best way to do that is to vote. A simple call to the county clerk's office or visiting http://www.garlandcountyvote.org "View my Ballot" can confirm that you are still registered to vote.
In school elections and special elections concerning tax rates are held, often 10 percent of the registered voters participate -- 10 percent decide how much property of sales tax we pay. The Legislature has attempted to try to increase voter turnout by adding school elections to primary or general elections, but it is still difficult to inform voters of ballot content, and many voters in the 2018 primary chose not to vote in the school portion of the ballot.
Gene Haley is the chairman of the Garland County Election Commission.Editorial on 05/12/2019
Print Headline: Garland County voters are not ignorant