Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Commentary: What Were They Thinking?

Oklahoma recently held its Presidential primary election.  Oklahoma has closed primary voting which means that only those people who jave chosen a party affiliation that has candidates in the election may actually vote during a primary.  That primary affiliation must be indicated on your voter’s registration card and you are only allowed to vote for those candidates that are affiliated with the party you identified. 

If you are like me, an Independent, then you were unable to vote during this primary election.  Personally, I find this unacceptable and believe that all voters should be able to vote for whomever they feel is the best candidate but that’s a discussion for another time.

I found this election to be very disturbing and very disappointing for several reasons, two of which I will detail here. 

First, as the voting results were being displayed on the evening news broadcasts, I kept noticing something I thought was very strange:  names of candidates I knew had dropped out of the race.  That’s right – the Oklahoma Presidential primary Republican ballot contained the names of three candidates who had actually withdrawn from the race in January of 2012.

These candidates were:  Jon Huntsman who withdrew January 15, 2012; Michelle Bachmann who withdrew January 4, 2012; and Rick Perry who withdrew on January 19, 2012.  The primary was held on March 6, 2012 approximately six weeks after the last of these candidates discontinued their bid for a GOP nomination. 

I can understand why the names were still on the ballots.  After all, Oklahoma uses a physical ballot that must be specially prepared.  It would take time to print and distribute the ballots to the county election boards in preparation for the election.

Yet all of these candidates actually received votes. 

According to the unofficial results, with all precincts reporting, out of 286,523 voting Republicans, a little over 1% of the vote went to three candidates no longer running.  That calculates to over 2,900 people who didn’t realize, or didn’t care that the ballot they were casting was for a person no longer in the running.  Perhaps this was intentional – a statement that the candidate they actually wanted was no longer available, but perhaps it was apathy.

What is the impact of those votes? Just 2,900 less votes for someone else.  It might have changed the second and third place on the overall outcome, but in reality, it didn’t affect the vote since Oklahoma usually allots all of its Electoral College votes to one candidate. I say usually since there are 137 pages of legal requirements concerning elections under Oklahoma statute. 

The second thing I find very shocking and disturbing is that only 22 ½% of Oklahoma’s eligible voters could be bothered to vote. 

There are a little over 2,000,000 registered voters in the state of Oklahoma.  If you subtract the 229,000 or so that are registered Independents and therefore unable to vote in the primary election, there were almost 1.8 million voters who could have voted - yet only 399,024 actually exercised their Constitutional right to vote.  That leaves over 1.3 million people who couldn’t be bothered. 

47.2% of the registered voters in the state are Democrats, or about 943,000 potential voters, yet only 112,771 Democrats cast their votes.  The Republicans turned out in larger numbers as a little over 286,000 voted, yet there are about 828,000 registered.

If we don’t exercise our right to vote, we could see more and more of our rights eroded by the candidate that our apathy allows into office.  

Voting is not only our Constitutional right, but it's also a privilege.  Make certain your voice is heard, VOTE!  

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