I favor low voter turnout.
Every election year there is collective self-flagellation about low voter turn-out, especially during primary season in a non-presidential year. Let’s look at some percentages for those eligible to vote in the past three elections. In 2008, 61.7 percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls. In Georgia that number was 61.5 percent. In 2004, the previous presidential election, the figure for the U.S. was 60.1 percent and for Georgia it was 56.2 percent. Looking at a non-presidential year, 2006, 40.4 percent for the U.S. and a measly 34.7 percent of Georgians bothered to vote. (I didn’t include primary voting percentages because the numbers for the U.S. and Georgia in non-presidential years are not available)
So, collectively, we feel guilty — for many, not guilty enough to vote, evidently. While campaigning for a candidate in the July 20 primary, a friend asked the resident of a home why he had the sign for candidate X in front of his home. "Oh, I won’t vote for him" was the response, "but he did some work for my daddy once." Is that the correct motivation to display a candidate’s sign inferring that you support Mr. X? Asking others why they will vote for candidate Y, they responded, "She knocked on my door" and handed out literature. No indication that the hand-out was read? And often the voting results can be attributed to the number of yard signs, which are currently growing like weeds in Newton County.
Recently, an unknown candidate in the South Carolina Democratic primary got the most votes. Alvin Greene is an out-of-work military vet who raised no money, bought no ads and put up no signs. His opponent…Vic Rawl. Now note these two names because they are important, not because they are known or unknown, not because they have money or because they have friends in high places. On the ballot, Greene comes before Rawl.
It has been rather common knowledge for years that it is important to have your name first on the list of candidates in a particular race. Jon A. Kresnich, a columnist, has researched name placement on ballots. The results…on average, the first name garners two percent more votes than those further down on the ballot. So, if it was a 49 to 51 defeat, it could flip the loss into a win, 51-49. Krenick’s research prompted him to conclude that "In fact, in about half the races I have studied, the advantage of first place is even bigger — certainly big enough to win some elections these days… Based on the more than 100 elections in Ohio that a colleague and I studied, it’s when voters know little or nothing about the candidates, or when the candidates’ party affiliations are not listed on the ballot, or when the incumbent (whom voters typically know at least somewhat) is not running for re-election. Thus, some voters apparently feel an obligation or desire to vote even when they have no basis for choosing a candidate and are drawn to the first name they read."
So, adding up these examples and the research stated above, the obvious conclusion is that we are better off with only informed citizens voting, those who have taken the time to look at how each candidate stacks up on the issues of most importance regardless of party.
One more thing: One would hope that an elected official will change his or her mind on an issue as evidence presents a compelling case against the position previously held. So, I would suggest, that the informed voter invest time (this is an investment in good government) getting a feel for the candidates integrity, intelligence, sincerity, history, believability…those things that are held in high regard…those things that are important qualities in anyone, certainly in your representative.
If you have read this column, you are most likely an informed voter. Please vote in the July 20 primary. Early voting is now available.
Bob Furnad is a resident of Covington and the former president of CNN Headline News.