November 5, 2018 10:18:35 AM
Since the country's founding, the United States has been governed by a representative form of government.
Well, sort of.
For much of our history, there have been groups of people who have not been given the right to vote.
As recently as 100 years ago, Native Americans and women were not allowed to vote. In the South, that disenfranchisement applied to black Americans as well, mainly through Jim Crow voter suppression tactics such as poll taxes and literacy test.
Those convicted of certain felonies cannot voter, either, and the list of disqualifying felonies in Mississippi is among the highest in the nation.
But for the most part, U.S. citizens over the age of 18 have to right and duty to go to the polls to help determine how our local governments, states and nation are governed.
Sadly, more often that not, many of us do not exercise that right.
In five days, voters across the country will be given that right again and the stakes are high. The balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate hang in the balance, depending on the outcome to Tuesday's election.
In Mississippi, voters have the rare opportunity to determine both U.S. Senate seats and, depending on where you live, who will represent them in the U.S. House. Closer to home, voters will also choose new chancery judges for all three seats in the 14th district.
In the June primaries, Mississippi voters responded to this opportunity will alarming indifference - just 15 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.
That sort of response begs the question: When 85 percent of voters don't go to the polls, can we really call ourselves a representative government?
In the field of statistics, the greater the sample size the more accurate the results.
The same is true when it comes to voting. The higher the turnout the more truly representative - and we would argue, the better - our leaders turn out to be.
Based on the number of absentee ballots cast as the election approaches, there is some indication that voter turnout will improve compared to the mid-term elections of four years ago. Both Lowndes County and Oktibbeha County are seeing higher numbers of absentee ballots cast - especially in Oktibbeha County, where the number has almost doubled (733) compared to the 2014 mid-terms.
On the other hand, eclipsing the 2014 turnout is no major break-through: Just 29 percent of Mississippians voted in that election.
Obviously, we can and should do better than that.
While some states have taken real steps to improve turnout - same-day registration has seen improvement in voter turn-outs as much as 14 percent in states where it has been implemented while online voter registration has improved turnout by an average of 7 percent - Mississippi's Legislature has killed every bill to bring those measures to the state. That's shameful. It tells us how little respect the Legislature has for the people of our state.
That is not to say that Mississippians are powerless to improve this dismal performance.
In fact, there are two ways we can absolutely guarantee better turnouts whether the Legislature likes it or not.
First - and should be obvious enough - vote.
Second, take one neighbor or friend who might not otherwise vote to the polls when you go. That alone would double the turnout.
It really is that simple.
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