The first Sunday of every November during odd-numbered years we express our confusion here: Why it is that only 10 percent or so of eligible voters in Robeson County cast ballots for those who establish tax rates, make zoning decisions, and determine staff on a local level, including public safety? In other words, things that affect our day-to-day lives.
Ninety percent don’t bother, even though, as recent local elections have shown, a single vote can tip the outcome in one direction or the other.
But four times that percentage will vote in a presidential election, even though the reach is much longer from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to influence our lives.
This year, it’s the same. Only 7 percent of eligible voters have cast ballots during a 13-day early voting period. Granted, in a large county with the only venue to do so being the Board of Elections in the heart of Lumberton, a valid excuse is not driving halfway across the county to cast a ballot.
But Tuesday is unlikely to produce a turnout that would change today’s Our View, even though that day a short drive will get voters to the polls.
The lack of turnout is true despite two council races in Lumberton that will likely determine the balance on the board, mayoral races in Fairmont and Red Springs, which also boast crowded fields for town board, and key votes in Pembroke, St. Pauls and Maxton.
Consider this: A total of eight people in all of Rowland and St. Pauls, where more than 2,000 people are registered to vote, had done so by mid-afternoon on Friday, the penultimate day to do so during early voting.
That is not a surprise — and although we have used this space in the past to encourage people to vote and scold those who don’t, we are no longer bothered by a lackluster turnout. We have come to understand that in this county, large turnouts are a product of robust hauling efforts, and there is ample evidence to demonstrate the damage that get-out-the-vote efforts do to the integrity of elections, at least locally.
No longer do we believe that each vote adds to the legitimacy of an election; rather, early voting on a local level has simply widened the door for voters to be manipulated with the promise of coffee and a donut.
All that said, we hope you vote if you are eligible to do so and haven’t already. There are 13 hours remaining on Tuesday to darken that ballot. We just prefer that you get yourself to the poll and that your vote is your own, and not exchanged for a coupon.
We predict about one out of 10 eligible voters will bother to take the time to cast a ballot, which shifts a lot of power to those who do meet this civic responsibility. Voting is not only a right, it is a civic obligation. Failing to do so is shameful, especially when American soldiers are still dying on foreign soil to preserve freedom here, which can only be assured as long as people participate in the democratic process.
Your role in that process is the easy one.