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Editorial: When we lose faith in the electoral process, we lose America
03162018 VOTING

With many vocal critics still arguing without merit that the veracity of last year’s national elections is in doubt, a new voting cycle kicks off Tuesday as early voting begins for city elections around Hall County and throughout the state of Georgia.

Typically, our local municipal elections are relatively quiet affairs devoid of the sort of hyperbolic turmoil created by last year’s national vote. We can only hope the same is true this year, as voters in half a dozen towns in the county go about the business of deciding who will serve on city councils and as mayor.

Just like the larger state and national elections, local municipal elections include an early voting period, absentee voting and election day polling, with the actual election day falling on Nov. 2.

We can only hope the process goes smoothly beginning to end. Somehow, even with small elections, that doesn’t seem likely anymore given last year’s election cycle experience and the ongoing fallout.

The city elections serve as a precursor to the looming statewide elections next year, and there is little to suggest those are likely to go off without a hitch.

Barring an order to the contrary in any of the pending legal challenges, the state’s new election law will govern next year’s balloting, and newly drawn election districts for everything from congressional seats to county commissions and school boards will be in effect for the first time.

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Election officials are already asking that the 2022 primary be delayed to allow for implementation of the new districts, which will not even be drawn until the legislature convenes to do so next month. Upon completion of that process, legal challenges are almost a certainty, which could make next year’s election cycle even more confusing.

Add to the mix the almost certain shortage of willing election workers, and the seemingly unending challenges to the location of voting precincts and the logistics of holding elections, and the process for choosing candidates for political office becomes even more of a petri dish for electoral discord.

You have to wonder why anyone would want to be involved in the logistics of holding an election.

Meanwhile, the American public seems to be disenchanted with both the candidates being chosen in the electoral process and the people casting the votes.

The results of a Gallop poll released in September show that only about 55% of those adults questioned have confidence that voters will make good decisions when they cast their ballots. By comparison, some 75% of respondents to polling in 1974 said they had confidence in the judgment of voters, and between 1974, when the poll was first taken, and 2009, the confidence level never dropped below 70%.

Similarly, the number of poll respondents indicating they had confidence in those who win elective office has been in steady decline in recent years, dropping from 66% in 2008 to 44% this year. The decline in those who have faith in politicians who win elections is reflective of respondents in both major political parties.

For anyone who has objectively watched the political scene over the past 20 years, it’s certainly not surprising that confidence in elected officials continues to drop. That nearly half of those polled lack confidence in their fellow Americans to make intelligent decisions when casting a ballot is also not surprising, given the virtually even split of the American voters along philosophical lines. But it sure is depressing and doesn’t bode well for our democracy or the future of our electoral system.

When voters in our local towns make their way to an early voting site next week, cast an absentee ballot, or go to the polls on election day in November, they are exercising a right that is the absolute cornerstone of our democratic republic – the right to freely cast a vote to elect community leadership.

We cannot allow that cornerstone to be weakened, cracked and destroyed by our antipathy for divergent political positions and our mistrust of those elected to public office. If faith in our electoral process is lost, so too will be our nation as we know it.

With the city elections we enter a long election year cycle that will conclude with next year’s general election in November. If we do not respect and appreciate the opportunities provided to us by our ability to participate in such a process, we likely will not have those opportunities much longer.

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