Smith: Election day: Your day to be heard

Smith: Election day: Your day to be heard

August 4th, 2014 By Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Robin Smith

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

As many, I am an avid reader of various media - newspapers, online news sites, social posts, research literature and most any other available resource.

The topics of government and politics generate some of the most passionate and divisive social media threads of discussion and offer an almost immeasurable virtual library of opinion.

Add the accessibility and availability of countless opinion sites pontificating on the crisis du jour in the world and nation (from the downing of a civilian airplane over Ukraine by a Russian-supplied fringe group to immigration laws that are not enforced on America's southern borders) to the distrust that simmers over City Hall and its taxpayer-funded utility competing with private business, and you have a cynical and angry public.

But what happens at the polls, when voters have a chance to do something with their pent-up frustration?

Not nearly enough, according to local election results.

On May 6, Hamilton County primary elections were held, preceded by two weeks of early voting.

Hamilton County recorded 8,784 ballots cast of 219,708 registered voters during early voting. That's a dismal showing -- just 3.9 percent of those eligible to vote made the effort to cast their ballots over two weeks.

On Election Day in May, another 15,266 voters cast ballots for a total of 24,050 votes. The turnout of all voters in the May election? Just 11 percent of registered voters exercised their right at the poll to make critical decisions about the future of their county.

What was on the ballot in May? Primary races for sheriff, district attorney, public defender, Criminal Court clerk, Chancery Court judge, Circuit Court judge and the County Commission races for each district. Some of these were only contested in the primary, with that May outcome determining the public official's destiny.

Yeah, but my vote doesn't matter.

In County Commission District 1, Randy Fairbanks surprised many by beatinga longtime incumbent by 52 votes to become the Republican nominee. Tell Fred Skillern your vote doesn't matter.

OK, but, I'm only interested in national politics.

In the weeks leading up to the August 2012 county general and state primary election, candidates spent millions of dollars trying to persuade voters to vote. The result? Tennessee's U.S. Senate race -- along with a contested congressional primary in the U.S. House of Representatives' 3rd District -- yielded a total turnout of 23 percent of the then-216,003 registered voters.

But, Robin, I don't have time.

I get it. This Thursday is the first day of public school. The work day is busy.

If you value something, you make time for it.

Most don't remember that it wasn't until the 1972 elections that 18-year-olds could vote. You could enlist to fight in the military, but until 1971 when the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, the voting age was 21.

Most don't remember that until 1920, women could not vote. Most don't remember that the segregated South featured poll taxes and targeted blacks attempting to legally exercise their right as an American.

Most don't remember that every battle won over a tyrant or enemy of America protects our rights, including our right to vote.

But do remember, on Thursday. Go vote.

Robin Smith, immediate past Tennessee Republican Party chairwoman, is owner of Rivers Edge Alliance.