The story is disheartening to responsible citizens — almost unbelievable, except that it reflected something of what we have all known for all too long to be all too true: A sorry majority of people in Bladen County don’t take their right to vote seriously.
It’s not like there wasn’t anything of interest or worth their time to cast a ballet. There was.
How about four county residents who wanted to be your sheriff? Including incumbent Sheriff Jim McVicker, the Republican ballot also had challenger Billy Ward to choose between. The Democrats had newcomers Hakeem Brown and Gary Edwards.
Despite that single important choice, only 5,858 of Bladen County’s 22,883 registered voters bothered to cast a ballot. That’s just under a measly 26 percent.
But if the race for sheriff didn’t excite voters, a couple of other local races should have.
For the county’s Board of Elections in District 3, incumbent Russell Priest of Elizabethtown was being challenged by William Whitley of Tar Heel on the Democratic ballot. A voice on the Board of Commissioners is a big deal, and those being represented in District 3 just didn’t seem interested — only 1,075 votes were cast there last week.
The Bladen County Board of Education has been mired between a rock and a hard place over the past few years, so a seat on the education panel as it moves forward to decide issues of school closings, school construction and consolidation would seem to be an important reason to vote — but it wasn’t for many in District 1, where incumbent Gary Rhoda and challenger Sabrina Murchison could attract just 1,429 total votes.
Of course, there were other decisions put before voters last week — such as state and national senator and representative races.
Running for office is difficult enough. It requires committing lots of time away from candidates’ families, hobbies and interests in order to learn what to do and how to do it. It also requires knocking on many, many doors, introducing oneself to potential voters and constituents and eliciting from them what their concerns are about how their government is conducted.
But running is not even the hardest part. If elected, the candidate-turned-elected-official must then commit to numerous meetings, service on various committees requiring still more meetings, taking phone calls at all times of day and night from constituents who may want all kinds of information or may want to make all manner of demands or complaints.
And, for that, the compensation is hardly adequate.
The appalling factor here is that fewer than 26 percent of eligible voters bothered to even turn out to vote. That other 74 percent should be ashamed of themselves. Does the right, the privilege of casting a ballot mean so little to them that it was too much trouble to travel to a polling place and spend 30 seconds or so filling out a ballot?
We read and hear all the time about the violence and malarkey surrounding elections in other countries — yet our right to participate in a legitimate local election nevertheless means so little to us that only slightly more than 25 percent make the time and expend the effort.
To the more than 5,800 people who voted, congratulations and attawaytogo. To the rest of you … it’s discouraging and somewhat pathetic you have so little regard for public responsibility — yours and those running for office. There’s just no good reason for it.
We can only hope November’s general election will be better.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Not voting is one of the worst things that could happen in our communities. You can vote for whoever you want to, but choosing not to vote spits in the face of our ancestors who fought for our right to vote.” (Otis Moss)