Editorial: Low voting turnout sends the wrong message

If voter turnout had a voice it would cry “wah, wah, wah” …to be read as a diminuendo, which is the opposite of crescendo.

Endless road signs, a steady stream of smiling faces in the mailbox and many energetic handshakes have filled (or cluttered, depending on your viewpoint) our lives in the last several weeks. And for what?

Let’s breakdown Santa Rosa County by the numbers.

161,096. That’s the Census Bureau’s 2013 estimate of residents in Santa Rosa County.

124,367. That’s the number of folks 18 and older in Santa Rosa County.

123,472. That’s the number of registered voters in Santa Rosa County. So far, so good.

21.74. That’s the percentage of voters who cast a ballot in the last primary election held in 2012. And
that’s the breakdown, or rather where Santa Rosa County breaks down.

That’s a pathetic number. Really. Less than 25,000 people voted in our last primary.

But it’s not even as bad as the number from Tuesday.

14.62. That’s the percentage of voters who cast a ballot for the Aug. 26 election.

Look, we understand that our two-plus political party system is often less-than-desirable. Alas, it’s
what we’ve got. And it’s better than many of the alternatives. It will only get worse if the two parties
are not kept in check by robust primary voter participation.

What sort of message does it send to the party elites when more than 85 percent of their voters deign to voice an opinion on the big day? If 85 percent of my children were quiet, I’d assume I was a shoe-in for parent of the year.

Several races were decided Tuesday and others saw what will probably be much stiffer competition
than what will come in November. Republicans cast votes in eight races, Democrats in five,
and nonpartisan voters cast their ballots in three races. Voters who thought they’d wait it out until
November did not have a say in the circuit judge race and one school board race.

45.06. That’s the percentage of voters who actually voted in the last non-presidential general election. Again, not impressive. Less than half of people that could have voted in November 2010 actually did.

Our Eye on Government page has featured a famous quote from Thomas Jefferson: “Every
government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves
are its only safe depositories.”

We’re fortunate to have a say on our elected officials since we live in a republic. But our carefully, painstakingly designed government easily removes the power from the people when they don’t vote.

Not voting is akin to handing over the keys of our government to the most cunning politicians. That doesn’t sound promising.

Another famous quote reminds us that “All politics is local,” at least according to former (and
infamous) Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill.

In November, voters will answer the burning question: Should Navarre incorporate? They’ll
also choose officials that will determine important issues like our county courthouse’s future,
how to handle stormwater and beach renourishment issues, and the distribution of RESTORE

Yet, whether you chose the route of passivity or passion on Tuesday, you have another chance
to have your voice heard Nov. 4. You might think Santa Rosa County and the state of Florida run
terrifically and are of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, or you might be drowning in a sea
of things you want changed. Either way, head out to polls Nov. 4.

We will keep you up-to-date and informed on the candidates so you can choose wisely our next governor, congressional representative and county commissioners. We will go to the meetings
so that you don’t have to. What you do have to do is make sure your voice is heard.

We know Santa Rosa County voters have opinions. We’ve seen them in our newspaper, on Facebook and we’ve heard them from your mouths.

Make those opinions count Nov. 4 and let’s move the needle up in voter participation.

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