Rich Macke: Only you can promote change — Just vote

Published 8:55 am Monday, May 14, 2018

Registered voters that didn’t vote in the March primary election, you can still vote in the runoff election May 22nd. With early voting period starting on Monday the 14th all voters should play a part.

It can definitely feel burdensome when there have been three elections in just three months — even so much as to sway citizens to not vote again. So it was interesting to see, although not unexpected, the lack of voter turnout in the Port Arthur ISD and Nederland ISD School Board elections last week.

With a currently unconfirmed population hovering around 50,000, the city of Port Arthur only saw 2,352 voters make their way to the polls to elect three board members. However in Nederland, with a population just over 17,000 or 34 percent of Port Arthur’s population, polls saw close to 1,000 more voters; 3,293, to be exact, made it to the polls to elect one school board member.

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Kudos must be shared to those individuals that understand the importance of our electoral process and the change their vote can make.

However, Port Arthur doesn’t exude large turnout for any election unless it is, of course, a presidential election. The 2016 presidential election saw over 40 percent of the registered voters turn out to the polls. So we know voters will come out. But for PAISD election, not even 10 percent were involved.

Is it because local elections are deemed less important? I mean, what else could be the reason? We can see that voters find importance in the process during a presidential election. But what is it about local elections that voters just seem to ignore?

I believe the process, locally, has become tainted over the years. Candidates confide in groups or organizations to sustain their voting bloc or to gain enough votes to be elected. Then those groups are shuttled by bus or van to the polls to push the view of the individual or candidate they have agreed to support.

Many of these groups are 501c3’s, or non-profit organizations. In general, according to the IRS, “no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.”

But with this practice becoming status quo across Southeast Texas, I believe this is part of the reason for declining or limited turnout for elections.

Another reason for not voting is lack of qualified candidates. When we see the same names run through the election mill time after time with minimal change seen throughout the city year after year, citizens begin to wonder why? That minimizes voting’s importance even more.

However, in reality, these should be reasons for the exact opposite reaction. For candidates and advocates alike that take advantage of this continual low voter turnout, they don’t want more citizens to vote. It makes an election much more easier for them to win, because they know who they can get to the polls and who will be voting for them.

Social media has taken the place of the age-old political marketing of oneself by mass communication to like-minded voters; it should be much easier to entice more voters to the polls, no matter what the election. Voters, that those on our political merry go round don’t know about. Voters that can completely change the face of our elected offices.

The runoff election of May 22nd has two very important races that could go either way.

172nd District Court Judge Democrat nominee for the November General Election is Mid County’s own Tina Bradley and Beaumont’s Melody Chappell.

Jefferson County Justice of the Piece Precinct 8 position is current JOP Tom Gillam and current PAISD Board of Trustee Joseph Guillory.

Encouraging friends, neighbors, co-workers, family members, etc. to go to the polls can and will make the change our communities seek. Just because there are only two races to vote on does not mean they are less important because they are not. In reality, these two races could set the tone for many races to come over the next few years.

So don’t just stay home and let someone tell you how the election went. Get out there and let your voice be heard. Get out there and vote for change. Vote for better. Because if you won’t do it, who will?

Early voting begins on Monday and runs through Friday.

Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News.