Is voting random or responsibility?

Published 12:01 am Friday, August 7, 2015

If NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was on the ballot, he might have received at least one vote. He might even have won the Democratic nomination.

In my younger days, I used to think that voting was not just a right it was a responsibility of every American citizen. As I grow older, my opinions are changing, especially when I listen to those who don’t see the importance of the voting process.

“I don’t vote. I have never voted,” my friend said when I asked if he had cast his ballot Tuesday afternoon.

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“You don’t want me to vote,” he continued.

My friend explained how he didn’t feel like he knew enough to make an informed decision when it came to voting. Besides, he felt like he had no connection to the political process.

Not ready to have a long conversation, I refrained from explaining to my colleague that paying sales taxes at local restaurants, driving on roads paved with government funds and buying many groceries subsidized with federal funds are three of many reasons he should be voting.

“Now, if the NFL commissioner were on the ballot, I would go vote,” he said.

The majority of the people who voted in the Democratic primary for Mississippi governor might as well have been voting for the top management position in professional football, because as far as I can tell 51 percent of them voted for a person they knew nothing about.

How a Mississippi trucker with no financial backing, no political connections and no name recognition won the Democratic nomination, has state party leaders dumbfounded.

Robert Gray, who goes by “Silent Knight” as his CB handle, carried 79 of 82 counties in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. In Adams County, nearly 4,000 people voted for Gray to give him 59.4 percent of the vote.

Madison attorney Vicki Slater, who was considered the Democratic front runner, raised more than $235,000 for campaign to which she added thousands of dollars of her own personal money. She received 24.4 percent of the vote in Adams County and 30 percent in the state.

Political pundits are still trying to figure out how a man who bought no advertising, didn’t tell his family he was running for office and didn’t even vote won Tuesday.

“It’s the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen,” political science professor Marty Wiseman told The Clarion Ledger. “It’s a low point for the Democratic Party, which doesn’t need any more low points.”

As much as Democratic party leaders wring their hands over the situation, all citizens should be concerned with a voting public that is willing to cast ballots for a person they know nothing about.

Gray may have impressed a few voters in the two public appearances he made during the campaign, but even the best speeches are unlikely to have swayed 140,000 voters. And yet thousands of voters punched Gray’s ticket to the general election.

For the voters who cast their ballots after careful consideration of the issues and candidates, Gray’s nomination must lead to serious soul searching.

In an interview with Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Gray said he is convinced he won because people chose him at random.

That remark makes me reconsider my opinion of those who choose not to vote. At least they knew they were unable to make an informed decision. You can’t say that for thousands of other residents.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by email at