An expanded opportunity to vote

An expanded opportunity to vote

February 16th, 2012 in Opinion Times

Given the high interest in the Republican presidential race, the March 6 Hamilton County primary balloting should prompt a large turnout. The competitive GOP race -- part of Super Tuesday -- is not the only reason to go to the polls. There is a Democratic presidential primary as well.

Moreover, there are three local races on the ballot -- for the Hamilton County Commission District 3 seat, for county mayor and for county property assessor. Voters, whatever their affiliation, should take time to make their preferences known in those competitive races. There is ample opportunity to do so.

Early voting continues six days a week through Feb. 28 at the Hamilton County Election Commission on River Terminal Road off Amnicola Highway, at the Brainerd Recreation Center on North Moore Road, at the Eastwood Church on Ooltewah-Ringgold Road and at Northgate Mall. The process should continue to gain adherents -- if new photo ID requirements don't complicate the process.

While most voters will have no trouble showing polling station workers an approved photo ID, others will not. Some individuals might not be aware of the new requirements, despite the controversy surrounding its politically motivated implementation. Others might simply appear, hoping that they will be allowed to vote without one. The impulse to vote is an admirable one, but desire and civic responsibility take a back seat in this instance. The law -- even a seriously flawed one passed by a Republican controlled legislature with vote suppression in mind -- must be followed.

There is bound to be confusion and disappointment at the polls as a result. Hopefully, those turned away during early voting can obtain a proper ID before Election Day. There's no certainty that will happen. Many directly affected by the law -- especially the elderly, minorities, students and the disabled -- already have tried to obtain one, and been unable to do so through no fault of their own. The demand for equitable access to the polls, however, must continue.

Those who do vote in the March 6 primary -- early, on Election Day or by absentee ballot -- should carefully consider the choices before them. The presidential primaries provide a chance to select a GOP candidate or to provide a vote of confidence for President Obama if that is one's wish. The high-profile presidential campaigns, though, do not mean voters should overlook races for local office. Those elected to them will create policies and make decisions that will quickly and directly affect us.

Democracy works best when those who support it engage the political system. Early voting makes it easier for those who meet the mandated ID requirement to fulfill that important civic duty. The opportunity to vote should not be wasted.