Dim-bulb law leads to cancelled elections

In the 2008 general election, only about 57% of the country’s voting age population actually voted.  In Georgia, even fewer citizens — 54.7% of the “VAP” — felt it sufficiently important to actually cast a ballot.  Although Georgia’s voting percentage was better than Hawaii’s or Texas’ (45.1% and 45.6%, respectively), it’s still nothing to write home about.  Undaunted by the already low turnout, however, recently several municipalities in Georgia have decided to employ a decade-old state law that will almost certainly diminish voter interest and turnout even further. 

In 1998, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation that permitted local governments to actually cancel elections.  This extraordinary power can be exercised if all candidates on a ballot in any particular voting precinct are unopposed.  This year, several governments in the Atlanta metropolitan area have opted to use this power and are then beating their chests and declaring to their constituents how fiscally conservative they are. 

While this may on the surface appear to be a reasonable way for a local government to save a little money by not holding an election and therefore not paying for printing of ballots, hiring poll watchers, and counting of ballots, it’s actually a pretty dim-bulb idea. 

Although I am not a fan of expansive government, and I take just about every opportunity available to rail against the growth of government power and expenditures, there are in fact some things that governments needs to do and which are in fact essential to the functioning of our representative democracy.  Holding elections is one of these necessary functions.  If it costs a few dollars to provide an opportunity for citizens to go to the polls every other year — or every year for that matter – to be able to voice their opinions through balloting on the quality and direction of government, well, then it costs a few dollars to do that.  If government is spending too much money and has to make some cuts, there are any number of other things in which governments engage that are far less justifiable than printing ballots and counting votes.

What are the foreseeable consequences of the short-sighted Georgia law allowing local governments to cancel elections?  For one thing, if there are no elections, people’s interest in educating themselves about candidates and public policy issues will understandably wane.  People will become acclimated to not going to the polls, at a time we ought to be taking steps designed to get them to the polls.  We should never lose sight of the fact that citizens have a right to vote, and allowing a government to take that right away, especially just to save a few bucks, will generate distrust and apathy toward the entire process of governing.  (It may also generate law suits challenging the cancellation of elections, which will then eat away at all that cash the local governments “save” by cancelling the balloting.)

Moreoever, by empowering local office holders to cancel elections in their own jurisdiction whenever all posts up for election are uncontested, you are providing incentive for those officials to discourage people from running against them.  One can just about hear the discussion – “You know, Joe, there’s no way you can beat me, so why bother to run, since if you don’t, we won’t even have to hold an election and we can just save the taxpayers all that money, which we can use for other worthwhile projects. (wink, wink)”

I’m not sure what the official title of this piece of legislation was, but it should have been, “The Vote Suppression and Incumbent Protection Act.”  Perhaps next year the members of Georgia’s General Assembly will figure out yet another way to protect incumbents and diminish voter interest even further.

18 comments Add your comment

Pompano

November 4th, 2009
9:47 am

Why it it that this piece of crap newspaper never passes on an opportunity to race bait here in Atlanta? Nice headline today on “Racial bias in suspensions” but no facts in the article to substantiate. Just an opportunity to give some people who want to holler discrimination their 15 minutes of fame – what a pathetic organization.

jconservative

November 4th, 2009
9:58 am

I agree with Barr on this one. Not having an election just sucks. No other word for it. And, yes, it is an Incumbent protection act.

For the record I never vote for an incumbent.

Shananeeee Fananeeeeeee

November 4th, 2009
10:48 am

Fraud-Bama has lost his shine, he wasted our time and the soldiers time doing what he does best, campaigning, and he still couldn’t bring it home for the corrupt.

George S. Patton

November 4th, 2009
12:54 pm

You’re wrong Shananeeee…LOL Dick Cheney is wasting you’re precious soldiers’ time. Cheney has gotten a lot of people killed and he’s made a lot of money from it. 16-18 year olds are all so gullible and willing to join up and ship out clueless which is not a surprise. The surprise is that these kids joined up broke and come home broke. They come back home with no arms, no legs and no money for care…cause Cheney has their money for care.

Nobody’s winning, everybody’s losing. Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, duck season, wabbit season..LOL Doesn’t matter who’s in office, Its the same thing all the time. We’re even with Haiti right about now.

Nick

November 4th, 2009
12:57 pm

While this is a decent premise I have a few empirical points: #1 When did education on a candidate (especially an unopposed incumbant) ever change the way things run, #2 When people want to run a new candidate, they can and it will trigger an election, #3 People are educated about candidates in the first place!?!

Also: Where is the “none of the above”. I’ve been pointing this out for a long time now. Sure Mr. Barr would love to believe that all the non voters are simply disappointed in party affiliation and that they’ll just vote for Mr. Barr given the knowledge to get out there, but I believe that most of the time, I’m disappointed with all candidates.

You want a way to get people to the polls? Allow them to register discontent, then maybe they’ll come out and register their non-vote in a more constructive way.

Chris Broe

November 4th, 2009
1:11 pm

All the ballot stuffing last night gave me some recipe ideas for Thanksgiving.

Roast Turkey with Ballot Stuffing, baked potatoe, and crangerry-mandered sauce. (sorry, writer’s block is not pretty)

clyde

November 4th, 2009
1:48 pm

You could not make voting any more uninteresting for me if you tried.Voter ID took care of that.When that came into being,I lost what interest I had in going to the polls to stand in line to cast a ballot that may or may not mean anything.This country needs supervised elections just like other third world countries.And we are third world when it comes to elections.

Keith

November 4th, 2009
1:57 pm

I’m surprised you didn’t mention the possibility that this ‘election cancelling’ could easily lead to a situation where a “unopposed” candidate facing a threat from a potential “write in candidate” would exploit this ‘cost saving law” to prevent the election from ever happening.

Public Option, NEVER!

November 4th, 2009
3:15 pm

Let me know Keith, when a “write in candidate” is exploited and maybe Ill agree with you. But for now, I’m fine with the law.

Now, let’s start voting NO on any measure to raise taxes, PERIOD!

Pompano

November 4th, 2009
3:49 pm

Whoops… someone filed a lawsuit somewhere alleging racial bias. Another front-page story for the AJC.

100’s of lawsuits were filed today – but leave it to the AJC to always advertise the race-card.

When did Al Sharpton become the editor of the AJC

joe matarotz

November 4th, 2009
4:53 pm

Vote against every incumbent.

Never vote for anyone who is running unopposed.

Repeat every election day.

Only thus will we clean out the filth know as ‘politicians’. They suck.

Deborah Fetkovich

November 4th, 2009
11:53 pm

Thanks to a recent survey By Aristotle International, Inc., we know that more than 3 million registered voters are dead. This means that the low perentages of voter turnout are not nearly as low as we think. According to the report,”Some states have bigger problems than others,” Phillips said. “With deadwood exceeding one in seven votes in some counties, candidates might as well spend a day a week campaigning in the cemetery.”

Among the findings, the study showed that states with the most “deadwood” voters were Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

In Massachusetts, 116,483 registered voters are dead, 3.38 percent of the state’s total of registered voters. Another 538,567, or 15.6 percent, had moved to an area outside of where they are registered to vote.”

The purging of registered voters no longer living or eligible to vote is a responsibility of local governments. In order to spend money elsewhere, many neglect this duty. The practice of checking obituaries and having party operatives recruit “substitutions” to vote for dead persons was allegedly used by Chicago’s first Mayor Daley. It’s legendary as “The Democrat Cemetery Vote”. When Nixon lost to JFK in 1960, there were at least three states with numerous ballots cast by dead persons and Nixon was advised to contest those states. He chose not to, claiming the resulting chaos would be harmful for the country. Had Nixon chosen differently, the country would have seen the kind of chaos that we witnessed in 2000 when Al Gore contested the Bush victory in Florida.

As for cancelling elections if they’re uncontested, I think it’s a great idea. Sure, citizens have a right to vote, but voting is about choosing. If there’s no choice to make, there is no reason to vote. Citizens aren’t subjects or children that need to be encouraged to show up at the polls every couple of years merely to “keep them in practice”. If anything, the Tea Party movement demonstrates that when they have sufficient motivation, citizens are more than capable of engaging in the political arena.

Rather than spending money trying to browbeat people to cast meaningless votes in the name of guiding them to develop a voting habit, save the money and use it to clean up your voter registration database.

Here’s the link I referenced: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/56423

MrLiberty

November 5th, 2009
1:03 pm

If voting made a difference, it would be illegal. Act responsibly, don’t vote.

If you don’t think that voting makes no difference, consider the republican revolution of 1994 – remember that one Bob?? Lotta good that one did for the country.

MrLiberty

November 5th, 2009
1:06 pm

All the republican revolution did was make sure there were plenty of non-thinking, complacent republicans (but I repeat myself) in office when Bush arrived, thus giving him carte blanche to destroy the constitution and wage illegal wars all over the middle east.

When nobody shows up for an election, it sends a message to the establishment that nobody cares about them anymore. Maybe if we stop paying them attention, they will go away or just crumble under their own obsolescence.

MrLiberty

November 5th, 2009
1:15 pm

George S. Patton – Since we have never seen a Libertarian in higher political office, and certainly the lable “independant” is no predictor of anything, I think that it is certainly inappropriate to blame them. Only the Republican and Democratic parties are responsible for the government mess we are in. They have rigged the ballot access game in every state to make sure that real competition cannot even get on the ballot. Ron Paul, though he runs as a Republican, is basically a libertarian and one of the most principled and finest individuals currently working in Washinton DC.

If I had the pleasure of voting for someone as principled on the constitution as Ron Paul in every election, I would bother to vote, and it would be a true pleasure for all of america to have such a choice.

Sadly, nearly all americans no longer want liberty, the constitution, limited or non-existent govnernment, freedom, no income tax, personal responsibility, sound money, free market capitalism, or any of the other things that once made this country great.

dewstarpath

November 19th, 2009
1:41 pm

- MrLiberty –
It’s spelled [i]label[/i] and [i]independent [/i].

dewstarpath

November 19th, 2009
1:44 pm

dewstarpath

November 19th, 2009
2:01 pm

- MrLiberty –
It’s spelled label and independent.
Sorry. wrong brackets.