To the editor:
Once upon a time, a school board was unable to reach consensus on whether to permit students to have cellphones in the classroom. Half of the board thought they created a distraction and should not be allowed. The other half thought they should be allowed for safety reasons. After debating the issue for several weeks, they decided to randomly select 100 parents and ask them to vote on the issue with the winning side determining the policy. A ballot was mailed to each parent with instructions to return it within one week.
As it turns out the matter was also a divided issue among the parents with 38 wanting the phone banned and 36 in favor of allowing the students to have them in the classroom.
Wait a minute. Only 38 people decided for 100?
Well, 26 parents did not return their ballot: Sixteen of them did not care one way or the other. Four did not see their ballot in the stack of mail on the counter. Six simply forgot to get their ballot back on time.
Consequently, a little more than one-third decided on the policy. Majority rules? Not really.
In 2020, there were 28,642 registered voters in Jackson County and 19,476 (68%) voted. Because almost a third (9,166) did not vote, all that was required to win was 34% of the registered voters. As it turned out, all a politician had to do was convince about a third of the registered voters to win the election.
In the 2022 general election 17,034 (60%), a majority of the registered voters did not vote, and 5,707 votes were enough to win the election. Convincing a little over 6% of the registered voters to show up and support you was all that was necessary to win.
When compared to the 30,718 Jackson County adults. (About 7% are not registered.)
In 2020, slightly less than a third of the citizens chose our political representatives and decision makers.
In 2022 it was only 19%.
If 75% — 80% of the people voted in every election, candidates would be forced to appeal to a larger percent of the total. Extreme positions would be softened. Messages directed to the needs of the community and the common good would become the norm.
When people choose not to vote, candidates do not have to appeal to the majority. When they can safely rely on a third or more not caring, they begin to target their appeal and resources to a winning minority.
When citizen and voter apathy is high, extreme candidates can achieve success by appealing to the fringes of society for support knowing they do not have to convince a majority.
Do not give up what so many fought and died to give you: The Right to Vote. Do not let a third of the population decide for the majority. Register and vote in every election.
Jim McCormick, Seymour