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Archive for Monday, August 12, 2002

A faulty electorate

August 12, 2002

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If people don't know about candidates and issues, they have only themselves to blame.

Another local election is history, and once again the voter turnout was pathetic for a community that supposedly is better-educated than most and possessed with many civic-minded residents.

Excuses are easy to come by the weather, lack of red-hot contests, vacation time, new people in town, the usual. But such alibis have been offered to us for years with no notable changes in the responses. Election turnouts are like Mark Twain's weather analysis: Everybody talks about them, but not enough do anything about it. Like the individual voters.

Please pardon a personal plug. The recent election process and the people involved in it were covered, covered and covered by the local media, print and electronic, to the point some Journal-World readers actually complained about "all that election stuff" being too voluminous and "boring."

In the wake of the election, some residents were asked what should be done to increase voter turnout for primary elections.

One respondent recommended more advertising, saying he had seen only one campaign sign and "didn't hear anything on television or radio."

His view was surprising considering how many stories ran in various news outlets, not to mention heavy television advertising in some races. Where has this Lawrence resident been?

Another said: "Probably inform voters better in the paper who the candidates are. People aren't informed very well."

It is, unfortunately, true that too many people aren't well-informed about candidates in these important state races. As illustrated by the State Board of Education's evolution debate several years ago, many Kansans don't pay enough attention to who is in office until something goes awry.

It's tempting to blame someone else for the deplorable voter totals, and the media are always a favorite target, but those who pay attention know there is more than enough information out there for voters.

Low voter turnout is not the media's fault. It is the culmination of many, many individual decisions not to take seriously the opportunity and duty to take part in the democratic process.

Kansas voters need to take individual responsibility for doing their part to raise voter turnout in November.

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