Better than average is still lacking

Published 6:38 pm Thursday, September 12, 2019

A 28.5% voter turnout — that amounts to 9,100 of Beaufort County’s 31,911 registered voters who took the time to vote in the 3rd Congressional District special election.

Granted, Beaufort County did slightly better than the rest of the district. Overall, only around 23.5% of voters in the 3rd District bothered to vote in the election to determine the district’s next congressman.

The question is, where was everybody else?

What kept the remaining 22,811 voters in Beaufort County from going to the polls? There were 13 days of opportunity to do so, between One Stop voting and Election Day. Yet more than two-thirds of voters didn’t show, both in Beaufort County and district wide.

What was so important as to keep these people from the polls? Did they not have a way to get there? Could they not take off of work or slip away on a lunch break? Or is it some more sinister blend of laziness and apathy that keeps people at home? Perhaps the worst case scenario of all, have so many people become jaded enough to believe their vote doesn’t matter?

Those 22,000 votes would have mattered in Beaufort County. Those 200,000 votes would have mattered in the 3rd District. But those votes weren’t cast.

Yes, it is an off-year election. By nature, elections in odd-numbered years don’t generate the hype and excitement of presidential or even congressional elections.

Eastern North Carolina just made a mistake, and it doesn’t have to do with who won the election.

The mistake is this: letting less than 30% of the electorate decide who will represent this district in Congress for the next year. We’re better than average here in Beaufort County, but that’s still not good enough.

So remember, folks, voting begins next month in municipal elections statewide, including for mayors and town council members here locally. If you care at all about the future of your town, don’t make the same mistake of staying home from the polls. Your vote does matter in these local elections.

In closing, consider this story from the town of West Jefferson in the mountains. In 2015, two candidates for town council tied at the polls. The result of that election was literally decided with the flip of a coin. Consider that next time you think your vote doesn’t count. We can do better than 28.5%.