The barrage of accusations, attack ads, robocalls and social media propaganda in local races drowns out any reasoned debate, forcing even informed voters to grasp for substance.
It’s no wonder voters are so apathetic.
Participation is especially bad in non-presidential election years, and Tennessee voters traditionally are among the nation’s worst offenders. According to a Pew Research Center study, just 29 percent of eligible Tennessee voters cast ballots in the 2014 midterm elections, placing the Volunteer State 50th out of 51 states and the District of Columbia. Only Texas was worse.
As early voting begins today in the Republican and Democratic primaries for county offices, don’t let the babble keep you from exercising your constitutional right to participate.
Voting is the most important responsibility of citizens in our representative democracy. While rallies, letters, petitions and other forms of free speech have influence, voting is the only direct way you determine outcomes.
So delve beyond the caterwauling and find the meat in the campaigns. One good place to start for Washington County’s races is the Chamber of Commerce survey of candidates posted on our website at JohnsonCityPress.com/tags/chamber-survey. You’ll find answers to core questions from candidates for county mayor, trustee, circuit court clerk, register of deeds, sheriff and commission seats.
But regardless of which county you call home, do your own research. Find out where the candidates stand on the concerns you value most. And if the noise tells you one thing, it should be the nature of the bullies involved. Character does matter.
Then vote. Vote in the primary — during early voting or on May 1. Vote again in August and in the November midterm elections. Local, state and national offices are on the line.
Early voting runs through April 26. Check with your local election commission for poll locations and times.