Election process could be improved

Published 12:01 am Sunday, August 9, 2015

After last week’s party primary elections, a couple of things strike me as takeaways.

First, never underestimate the fickle electorate. Although our newspaper endorsed a challenger for Adams County sheriff, had someone wanted to bet me the incumbent wouldn’t make the run off, I doubt I’d have taken the bet.

Second, as I walked out of the poll, a long-time friend and the wife of a candidate called me over and expressed how ridiculous it is that candidates camp out on the perimeter of polling places.

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“They should outlaw this,” she said as sweat poured from her brow in the mid-morning sun. “Has anyone ever driven up, saw a sign and changed their vote?”

She’s correct. Not only is it torture — and potentially dangerous — for candidates who stand out in the heat waving signs at passing motorists, it also just seems pointless.

Yet at practically every precinct, candidates, supporters and paid hawkers sweltered throughout the day.

Sadly, after voting, I didn’t think much about candidates and their supporters until much later in the day when I was picking up the vote count at the Kingston precinct.

The door opened and a nice lady walked in who looked to be near heat exhaustion.

She asked for a seat and began fanning herself. A poll watcher fetched the woman a glass of water to help her cool down.

After she cooled down a bit, we learned that she’d basically been left at the poll and had been unable to reach anyone by phone who could drive to Kingston to pick her up.

When the poll closed and the votes were counted and reported back to the newspaper, I noticed the woman was still sitting by the door.

A few seconds later, the polite stranger was sitting in my passenger seat, and we were driving back toward town. The woman had been hired by a candidate to stand outside the poll and represent him to passers-by.

Unlike the candidate’s wife I’d met earlier, for this woman Election Day was a way to earn a little extra spending money.

The diversity and economic disparities one sees on Election Day are truly amazing.

I didn’t ask how much the woman earned for baking in the sun, but it almost certainly wasn’t enough for her pain and suffering, but I’m glad she was able to earn some income.

Finally, like many voters, I came away from the primary process slightly disappointed in its restrictions.

The necessity to choose either a Democratic or Republican ballot ultimately limits choices.

For the great majority of the local races up for grabs, that meant choosing the Democratic ticket.

Doing so in Mississippi’s system is simple enough since voters can choose a specific party’s ticket regardless of whether or not the voter is actually registered with that party or not.

But what happens when a voter is interested in voting for a Democrat in one race and a Republican in the other? It’s just tough luck, at least in the primaries. A few random states have a more interesting approach to primaries. In those states, all of the candidates —regardless of political party — appear on the same ballot. The top two vote getters wind up on a single, unified ballot in the general election. The idea is that under such an arrangement party matters less than popularity. The general election may wind up having two Republicans on the ballot.

That seems to make a little more sense to me than our current system.

Then again, perhaps I stood in the sun too long on Election Day and fried my brain a bit.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.