In case anyone forgot, there's an election this year.
No, really. In fact, you can already cast your ballot; absentee voting started last week. I've heard from several early voters wondering about the constitutional amendments on the ballot. I just tell them it doesn't matter how you vote on them, because they'll all pass anyway.
I'll probably vote "no" just to be contrary. We have to find drama somewhere.
So, why is this campaign season so lackluster? Here's my theory: Voting has become so easy that it's no longer exciting.
To start, go back to the civil rights movement. People were killed, beaten and brutalized to allow blacks the right to vote. The legacy of that struggle should be nearly 100 percent voter turnout from the black community. Instead, black voter turnout consistently lags far behind white turnout.
Amazingly, rather than focusing on urging blacks to honor the civil rights movement by voting, modern civil rights leaders complain about voter ID laws.
What a waste. The only thing "disenfranchising" voters is their own apathy.
Then, in 1993, the National Voter Registration Act became law. Called "Motor Voter" because voters were registered at driver's license bureaus and other government offices, the law led to millions of new registrations.
Registering became so easy that Columbia County, like all communities, now maintains two lists of voters: Active, for people who vote; and inactive, for those who never have any intention of doing so, but signed up when they got their food stamps or driver's license.
There once was a time when registering to vote was a rite of passage. Now it's a meaningless routine.
Add to this the legacy of the 2000 presidential election. All the confusion led not only to electronic voting machines that replaced punch-card ballots, but to all sorts of avenues for earlier and simpler voting.
It's easier than ever to register to vote, and the election is no longer just on one special day. The result? The thrill is gone, baby. It's tough to build excitement for election day; it's nearly impossible to raise a pulse for election month.
To inject a little life into the political season, the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee will hold a candidate forum at 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at the library's performing arts center.
The forum will include all of the contested local races, and the chamber has invited me to be one of the people asking questions. If anyone has a burning issue they'd like addressed, send me a note.
If I could have one wish for the forum, it would be that the audience is made up of citizens coming to find out more about the candidates. Instead, we can expect it to be filled with each camp's noisy partisans.
On the Sunday after the forum (Oct. 15), the county's Democratic Party is holding an open house at 3 p.m. at their Washington Road headquarters in Evans.
The last time the Democrats opened a Columbia County headquarters (I don't recall the year), Mark Taylor dropped in to help cut the ribbon.
Though Taylor is now running for governor, he apparently won't make a return visit. A party official told me he was invited to the county opening, but won't be able to attend.
It's probably just as well. The latest polls show Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue far ahead of Democrat Taylor. Columbia County is one of the state's more reliable Republican strongholds; for candidates like Taylor, Columbia County isn't exactly fertile ground. So it's understandable "The Big Guy" will dig for votes elsewhere.
That's too bad. We could use some excitement around here.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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