Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Opinion

May 8, 2014

Democracy works best with participation

Our representative republic, which we fondly call a democracy, worked well Tuesday when voters went to the polls to pick their party’s candidates for the general election. But we wish more local people had participated.

There are 127,113 registered voters in Elkhart County, which is a pretty good number for a county with about 200,000 in population. Yet just 19,125 people, or 15.05 percent of registered voters, opted to help select candidates for the general election. That’s an abysmally low turnout.

The county’s election officials made it much easier for everyone to vote Tuesday by opening 25 vote centers throughout the county. Registered voters were able to vote at any of the centers, no matter where they lived. But that convenience didn’t help boost turnout. So something else is at play.

Perhaps no-show voters are simply happy to leave their government’s fate in the hands of a few. Or, maybe the primary system itself is a negative to voters. In Indiana voters have to declare their party to obtain a party ballot in the primary. The intent of the declaration seems to be to keep a party’s opposition from stuffing a ballot box with votes to place a weak candidate in a slot so it is easier to defeat them in the general election. We think that is a far-fetched scenario.

Many voters want to split their tickets, selecting candidates on their merit, not their party affiliation. Closed primaries don’t allow independent thinking. So we think the closed primary system we have should be studied by legislators with the help of common Hoosiers to see if opening the primaries to any voters would boost turnout.

But we do know that vote centers work. Other than a glitch where an election staffer forgot to pull the memory card from a machine at the North Side Gym vote center, thus delaying the election results for about an hour, the new system worked well.

Now it is on to the general election and we urge local voters to read campaign literature, blogs, websites, newspapers and stay informed about the issues at hand. Voters should also make it a point to attend events where candidates speak so they can ask informed questions. For our democracy to continue to function well, voters must push candidates for answers and to justify their stances. That’s how democracy is supposed to work.

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