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Will Low Voter Turnout Rates Continue in November 5th Presidential Election

Mac Gordon

Donuts on Cake

On the 60th year anniversary of this nation’s most important, courageous and successful drive to enlist more voters, the turnout rate in certain 2024 elections across America has been depressingly disappointing.

In one local round of voting in which I participated, involving primaries for President and the U.S. Congress, the turnout was a meager 18-percent of voters, and I’ve read of participation in the teens in several other states.

I don’t want to say such a low involvement of electors makes for a worthless election, but I’m tempted. All elections, whether primary or general, are truly important to maintaining our hard-earned freedoms.

“Voting matters” is an age-old cliche that is worth repeating because of the toil that was required to stage elections open to all of our countrymen.

Until 1964, you couldn’t say that voting was open to all of the citizens of this country. Here in the Deep South generally and Mississippi in particular, gaining the right for Blacks to vote was exceedingly difficult.

Many battles over voting rights were fought on my hometown McComb streets amid the Civil Rights Movement that year. The city’s unrest shone an unfavorable light on a place that had mainly been known as the “Camellia City of America and Home of the Lighted Azalea Trail,” and for state championship baseball teams.

The city’s belle epoque was lost that spring and summer in the cloud of kerosene-soaked crosses and Molotov cocktails tossed around the community.

What baffles me is that Mississippi and surrounding states experiencing low voter participation are supposedly among the most patriotic commonwealths in the country. I’m having trouble making a connection between patriotism and not voting.

Many small towns recently staged wonderful displays of patriotic spirit during the Memorial Day weekend. On the 80th anniversary of D-Day, we saw the faces of the brave Americans who fought to save the world on the beaches and battlefields of Europe in 1944-45.

These heroes preserved our representative democracy. Why can’t we honor their sacrifices by doing something as basic as voting?

The pathetic turnouts are not confined to the South. The worst voting participation rate in recent times has to be Iowa’s 8.3-percent in primary elections —- a state where voting gets more attention than most places because of its ballyhooed presidential primary.

Brian McQuide, a Grand View University political scientist there, said, “Typically, only people who are super into politics vote in primaries. Plus, Iowa has closed primaries. That means you have to be a registered Republican or Democrat to vote.”

South Dakota came in at around a 15-percent turnout in recent primaries, but that’s not the biggest election stunner there —- it was that at least 14 Republican lawmakers lost seats to fellow Republicans, which might give pause to incumbents everywhere across the fruited plain about the people to whom they’re beholden.

The website lists Mississippi third among 10 states with historically poor voter participation. Number one is West Virginia, second is Oklahoma, fourth is Arkansas and then Tennessee — all states washed in patriotism.

Several factors aggravate this situation: Lack of transportation to the polls, limited exposure to civic engagement, restrictive voting laws, apathy and the erosion of trust between citizens and politicians.

The obvious big question to be answered ahead is whether the low turnout rates will continue into the Nov. 5 presidential election.

The website’s report ends with wise counsel for us all:

“Let’s strive to create a nation where every voice is heard, every vote matters, and the tapestry of American democracy is enriched by the threads of all its citizens, regardless of location, socioeconomic background, or political preferences.”

---Mac Gordon is a native of McComb. He is a retired newspaperman. He can be reached at

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