October 2018 Issue
by Managing Editor Caleb Talley
“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” – Abraham Lincoln
have been fascinated by the election process since I was a child. My mother was a perennial candidate for county office. I, as early as elementary school, spent my fair share of Saturdays burning the pavement. We would start at the street corner. She would go one way; I would go the other, passing out cards and timidly talking to voters who answered their doors. Those who didn’t got a card stuck in the screen door.
I remember fish fries, county fairs and strange churches. I remember waiting up well past my bedtime at the county courthouse as votes were hauled up in big locked boxes, counted, tallied up on a chalkboard and relayed over the local radio station airwaves. I saw relief and disappointment on the faces of men and women who’d spent the better part of a year pleading their case to voters who, for the most part, remained apathetic through it all.
I have a lot of respect for anyone willing to pursue public service. Too often they denigrated by others who’ve never heard the call to serve and couldn’t possibly understand the desire to be weighed and measured by one’s peers in exchange for the opportunity. The same goes for those who take up the fight for, or against, a political cause, to debate for what they believe in the public square.
Elections are important. They’re an expression of our collective opinions. And this year, the midterm election that’s only weeks away will decide our governor, judges, U.S. Representatives, state lawmakers, mayors and council members.
With all that’s at stake, Arkansans should be prepared to head for the polls in droves. But that’s typically not the case. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, only 60 to 65 percent of all the people registered to vote do. And it’s worse during the midterms.
In 2010, nearly 1,640,000 Arkansans were registered to vote. But that November, less than 780,000 (or 47.6 percent of registered voters) showed up to cast a ballot. On the ballot that year were U.S. Senators, congressmen, a governor and three Constitutional amendments. Two years later, an additional 300,000 Arkansans made their way out to vote.
In 2014, less than 850,000 citizens, roughly 50 percent or more of Arkansas’ registered voters, got out to vote. That election decided a gubernatorial race, a Senate race, five Constitutional amendments and much more. Again, another 300,000 or so voters managed to find their polling place two years later.
What will it be this year? If things continue the way they have in recent years, there will likely be an increase in voters over 2014 totals. But those who do show up on Election Day will represent only half, or less than half, of the state’s registered voters. Where are the rest?
Do 300,000+ Arkansans not care who their governor is? Do they not care who their congressman is? Do they not care who’s representing them in city hall? Do they not care whether or not their Constitution, the document with which they’re ruled, is amended?
I suspect Arkansas Money & Politics readers aren’t the ones staying home on Election Day. They’re your neighbors, your friends, your family members. And the onus is on us to reach them.
Breaking through to the average voter, making them care about issues they might not yet understand, can be difficult. But it’s critical. Do your part in informing fellow Arkansans and getting them to the polls. Any candidate or campaign manager hoping to benefit from a low turnout doesn’t belong in whatever office they’re seeking. And there will be candidates on the ballot that don’t belong in office, and there are plenty of those who do. There are constitutional amendments that could benefit our state, and there are others that would be a disaster. Study up and determine to which side you fall.
Let’s buck the trend. Let’s get the vote out.
Let’s give a damn. And make sure your neighbor gives a damn, too.
In Cash & Candor, Arkansas Money & Politics / AY Magazine Editor Caleb Talley aims to shoot it straight when it comes to business and politics in and around the Natural State. Talley comes to AMP by way of the Arkansas Delta, where he called balls and strikes at the Forrest City Times-Herald. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more Cash & Candor here.