It’s good to matter on national scenePublished 12:01am Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Our exits were worth polling Tuesday, and that means something special for our great state.
Four years ago, as the Mississippi presidential primary rolled around, there was little interest in what happened in Mississippi. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were still in a close race, but Mississippi wasn’t expected to matter all that much. John McCain had already clinched the Republican nomination before the first Mississippi voter headed to the polls.
But Tuesday, as a slow trickle of Mississippi voters left their precincts, some were met by people conducting exit polls for national media agencies. Some locals working for the networks were polling outside the Adams County Courthouse late in the day. Others were doing the same in Wilkinson County.
News agencies use exit polling as a means of predicting the winner of an election, among other things, before the final vote tallies are available. And the fact that they were polling in Mississippi meant the nation’s eyes were on us.
With three Republican candidates seriously in the running for the nomination, Mississippi’s relatively small number of national delegates are coveted. The candidates proved that in the week before the election, making visits to Mississippi cities and eating “cheesy” grits, as Mitt Romney mistakenly called them.
Mississippi has 40 delegates to the Republican National Convention. Three of those delegates are party officials who can choose their candidate. Voters in the primary determine the votes of the remaining 37 delegates.
Being a small state during election season can easily be disheartening. Our nation’s electoral system means that we little guys often don’t count for much of anything. Dozens of small states can go red; but blue may still easily win.
Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Texas and California, those are popular states regardless of the popular vote.
But — just like you learned in elementary school — when the race is tight, every vote counts.
Rick Santorum was happily counting our delegates Tuesday night, as election returns showed he was winning Mississippi.
It’s too early to know whether our 37 delegates will make a difference at the convention, but seeing a few people conducting exit polls should serve as a reminder that our state had a voice, and we must use it.
Voter turnout was predictably low Tuesday, only 14 percent of registered voters went to the polls. Such turnout numbers are always disheartening, but those who do cast their ballots are quick to tell you why.
It’s a duty, a right, a responsibility, they’ll tell you. It’s just what you do.
To those who voted, thank you for realizing that — despite the final delegate count — your vote matters.
This could be the year Mississippi makes its mark, and you’ll be among those who were counted.
Louisiana voters will have their chance to speak soon. Presidential primaries in that state are on March 24. With a number of local elections on the Concordia Parish ballots, voter turnout should be better.
And after Tuesday night’s results, the exit polls will likely find their way to Louisiana soon.
Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.