Barry Saunders

Saunders: Non-voters must face consequences

Taking a break as a precinct volunteer at Cary Academy, Raymond Woody, 81, casts his vote, the 28th of the morning at nearly 11 a.m. “I have to do something to get my blood flowing,” he says referring to the low voter-turnout. The morning proved to be slow for polling locations in Cary, N.C. on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 for local municipal elections.
Taking a break as a precinct volunteer at Cary Academy, Raymond Woody, 81, casts his vote, the 28th of the morning at nearly 11 a.m. “I have to do something to get my blood flowing,” he says referring to the low voter-turnout. The morning proved to be slow for polling locations in Cary, N.C. on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 for local municipal elections. clowenst@newsobserver.com

Be afraid, Democrats. Be very afraid.

You know those Republican efforts to stop people from voting that y’all are raging about?

Sorry, guys, but they appear to be working.

Whether one thinks Republicans’ alleged voter suppression efforts are real or imagined – for the record, they’re real – you have to admit that something made citizens throughout the region avoid voting booths last week the way a snail avoids an overturned salt shaker.

For the city council elections in Raleigh last week – Really, there was an election last week – 11 percent of registered voters voted. That’s even after the ad featuring the drunk dude leaning on a lamp post was introduced into the campaign and some candidates’ backers warned that downtown Raleigh was turning into a puke-splattered Drunk Town.

That 11 percent turnout is virtually an outpouring of civic involvement compared to Cary, where 8 percent of registered voters bothered to vote.

In Durham, fewer than 8 percent – 13,416 of 176,846, according to the state’s Board of Elections website – voted in an election that will choose the people who chart the city’s course.

Danged Republicans. Those dudes are good. Since their reputedly restrictive voting rights laws passed in 2013 –reducing early voting days, ending same-day registration and the preregistration of 16- and 17-year-old high school students, among other things – don’t take effect until next year, the GOP must’ve resorted to some Jedi mind tricks to succeed so astoundingly at keeping people out of the polling places.

Did they bombard residents with robo-calls telling them Obama had canceled the elections, so don’t bother? Was there a “Friends” marathon on TV and you’ve been waiting 20 years to see that episode where Ross and Rachel finally kiss?

Was it laziness? Apathy? Status quo satisfaction?

You know what? Regardless of why we don’t vote, any time at least 50 percent of registered voters don’t bother to, the whole election should be called off on account of voter indifference. That way, you’d be stuck with the same people already in office.

Hey, wait a a minute: That’s what happens now.

Years ago, I received a gift card from a department store noted for its customer service and high prices. As soon as I finally found something in the store that I liked and could afford, I whipped that bad boy out and gave it to the clerk. While I was doing some fancy ciphering in my head to see how much moolah would be left on the card after this transaction, she informed me that I still owed her $23.70.

Say what?

She explained that there was a penalty for not using the gift card within a certain time period, and its value had whittled while I fiddled. If I’d fiddled much longer, she said, it would’ve whittled ’til there was just a little. Somehow the store concluded that it had the right to reduce the value of the gift card because I didn’t use it within the period they thought I should have.

That’s a stupid idea for a gift card, but it’s precisely how things should work with the gift of voting: Reduce the value of citizenship if people don’t participate. And you know those “I Voted” stickers some of us proudly wear on Election Day or until whenever the next bath day is?

They should make non-voters wear “I’m a schnook” stickers.

If I ever became President – not likely, since I still have some unpaid library fines from the 1980s, and then there’s that little incident with the squirrel – I would unilaterally declare that people who don’t vote within two election cycles will have to watch the movie “Homer and Eddie” starring Whoopi Goldberg and Jim Belushi with a dead battery in the TV remote control so the channel can’t be changed.

Of course, people who don’t vote obviously don’t like change, anyway.

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