November 6, 2018

Hoping for High Voter Turnout

I voted
I almost never watch the local TV news. When I first moved to Mississippi, I watched it almost every night. I was desperate to learn as much as I could about the area and the people who lived there. I wanted to know what was going on in my new community. And yes, the local news was the funniest thing on TV by far.

I had lived in small towns before, and so I was familiar with the unpolished manner in which small town local news tends to operate when compared with the local news one finds in larger cities. This is where people get their start, and some small group of the really talented ones might end up in larger markets. The rest? They aren't going anywhere.

Still, what I saw in Mississippi was several notches below what I had seen in other rural areas. The news anchors frequently made the kind of mistakes one would not expect to see from someone who had been on the job for more than a week. The few on-the-scene reporters never seemed to be prepared for what they were facing. If the local news I was used to coming from a large city could be compared with professional actors one might see on the big screen, the local news here in Mississippi was like a really bad junior high school play. In fact, I'm not sure this comparison is even fair to the junior high drama clubs!

I watched the local news last night because I was curious what they were saying about today's election. I have to admit that it was not quite as bad as I had remembered. Anyway, the part that jumped out came when they were interviewing some of the state's election officials. Based on requests for absentee ballots and the few other forms of early voting the state permits, one of them was saying that today's election looked to be record-setting in terms of voter turnout. I was very happy to hear that. But then, one of the interviewee's dropped a bombshell. The voter turnout was looking really good for a midterm election but was still less than half of what we see in a typical presidential election.

No, I'm not surprised. I am disappointed though. Our Representatives and Senators matter too. In fact, I have long suspected that the people representing us in Congress (and at the state level) often have as much if not more influence on our daily lives as whoever occupies the White House. I know we hear far more about the President from the national news media, but the idea that these midterm elections would not even generate half the interest as a presidential election bums me out.

Maybe the election officials were wrong. Maybe the numbers on which they were relying did not have much to do with what the actual voter turnout today will be. When I voted, my polling precinct was easily 3 times more crowded than I had ever seen it before. That includes presidential election years. I know that probably doesn't mean much, as I could have just hit it at a different time of day than I usually do or something. I'm hoping that voter turnout does end up being very good. I would like to think that most people are paying attention and willing to express themselves. And if not, well, at least I did my part.