Tuesday, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is Election Day. It’s an exciting day to me, no matter what the scale of the election. We could be voting on the presidency or the seats on the Water and Soil Conversation Board, it wouldn’t matter to me.
It would be great if the government declared Election Day a holiday and gave everyone a day off from work and school to eliminate that barrier for voters. The process of choosing our leaders is surely as important as the first day of the year or our annual day of thanksgiving.
The first election I ever watched from a newsroom took place in 1990. That was the year Sen. Jesse Helms defeated Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt to claim a fourth term. In that same election, U.S. Rep. David Price defeated Youngsville businessman John Carrington to claim a third term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the newsroom that night, we were busy designing pages, which we did by hand in those days. As the results started to come into focus, my editor, the late Peggy Allen, wondered aloud how the voters could elect both Helms and Price in the same election. It was a great question, I thought. Helms was ultra conservative and Price was busy aligning himself with the liberal left. How voters could chose one liberal and one conservative didn’t really make sense.
It didn’t seem likely that voters were searching for the kind of gridlock a split ticket could create. And while Price and Helms were in different chambers of Congress, it was clearly the case that one body wouldn’t likely lean in the same direction as the other.
These days (and in 1990, too, I am sure) pollsters do their best to take the pulse of the electorate. They work with their chosen candidates to craft messages to their base of supporters, but also to those undecided voters who could tip the scales one way of the other.
For Helms that was important. The 1990 win over Gantt marked the second straight election Helms had won by a narrow margin. And while Price beat back Carrington fairly handily in 1990, he soon found himself out of office for a brief period when the national conscience became decidedly more conservative.
I never satisfactorily answered Mrs. Allen’s question for myself. But it did lead me to think carefully about who I was voting for in succeeding elections and how I thought my favored candidates might work together if elected.
Still, to this day, I think that’s an important question for voters to ponder. If voters in large numbers do that, it’ll most likely lead to wholesale changes in the way pollsters and people of their ilk try to gauge the plans of voters when they go into the voting booth, pull the curtain and mark their ballot.
Regardless of who you vote for on Tuesday I hope you’ll be thoughtful when you enter the voting booth. Without at least a little forethought, the outcome of your decisions could impact a nation or state’s progress for years to come.