Changes needed to raise election participation

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tomorrow is the next step to decide who will be the next mayor of Poplarville. Residents have the opportunity to show up to the polls once again to cast their vote.

Two weeks ago, registered voters were asked to make their way to City Hall within the 12-hour voting timeframe for the mayoral primary. Now, the top two candidates face one another in the runoff. 

During the primary, voter turnout was just over 30 percent, equating to about 500 votes. It’s no secret that Poplarville is a small town and the city’s limits can make it seem smaller, with many outlying residents who are unable to vote.

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Poll workers keep a close eye on the time, locking the doors to City Hall at exactly 7 p.m. Many people cast their vote with just minutes to spare.  The most common excuse for not voting is work or a lack of time. But Poplarville and other cities across the U.S. aren’t the only places that suffer from low voter turnout.

We can talk all we want about how important it is to vote, but maybe it’s the system that needs some motivation.  Some countries make election days a national holiday, giving working adults the freedom to use regular business hours to cast a ballot.  Others make elections mandatory, instating fines or jail time for those who don’t participate.

Some have suggested shortening campaign season, holding elections on the weekend, instating automatic voter registration or allowing registration the day of an election.

According to Time magazine, Nevada is the only state that allows voters to check off a “none of the above” option, expressing their dissatisfaction with all of the candidates.

Last year, Maine voters chose to adopt a major change to their ballot system. Now, registered voters in that state can rank their candidates in order of preference, thus eliminating the need for runoff elections due to the lack of a majority.

With so many local elections held every year, simplifying the system and making it easier for voters is the only way the participation rate is going to increase.

These changes will take time, however. So in the meantime, voters should continue to realize the importance of these elections and spread that message to their neighbors.