Story By Bob Corbell
Voter apathy is not a new phenomenon to Del Rio or for that matter the rest of the country. However in the last three elections held in Val Verde County, the lack of turnout has passed way beyond epidemic acute proportions. It is chronic and dire. Maybe the explanation is that of the affects of self medication with illegal drug use or alcohol. It’s too easy to become hooked after the first nip, or high. That first taste of not participating in an election gives one the sense of control and euphoria all wrapped into a sublime feeling. Meanwhile the crash, hangover, or depression after the high of not voting leads to a pattern of cynicism over someone’s name they’ve never read on an election ballot.
This is the story of 85 percent of the registered voters in Val Verde County. They’re the ones who say they give a damn, but they really don’t. The majority of registered voters in Del Rio spit at the 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th, Amendments of the U.S. Constitution; 95 percent can’t define any of the specifics. Well since you slept through civics class, or were sick that day, let me give you a quick reminder. Between 1870 and 1971, these amendments ensure you the right to vote no matter your race, color, or previous condition of servitude (Amendment XV 1870). It doesn’t matter what sex you were born; you can vote in America (Amendment XIX 1920, the woman’s right to vote). You no longer have to pay a poll tax. Voting in the United States is free of charge (Amendment XIV 1964, the beginning of the end of Jim Crow). If you are 18 years of age at the date of an election, or older, you can vote. (Amendment XVI 1971).
Unless you fall under the category of felony disenfranchisement due to a conviction or are not a United States Citizen, there is absolutely no excuse for not casting a vote in any election, period. Every law, tool, time, and resource is more than adequate for you to participate within your government.
According to the Val Verde County Clerk Office, there are close to 27-thousand registered voters on the rolls. In the May 2018 City of Del Rio election, slightly fewer than four thousand people took time to cast a ballot. So, why the apathy?
One reason could be the convoluted, an excessive number of elections that we do have. General elections, bond elections, primary’s , special elections, county elections, county-primary run-off elections, city elections, hospital board elections, school board elections, school board bond elections, and city run-off elections. A total of 11 elections since November 2016. That is a one per month election average which is quite byzantine for most of the voters. The resolve would take both legislative action and city-county effort for cohesive and simplified voter solutions.
Another reason might be a bit subjective to the age of the voter, but let’s face it; times are changing on how a candidate’s message is presented. Social media has become the coffee-shop-feel-good-trendy-way of an office seeker to present his message. Quite frankly, it’s not personal for the voter. Yes, the message might be presented well, with some near instant feed back, but it does not carry into a one-on-one conversation.
When I see political messages on social media, I scroll through the news feed. If I continue to receive them, they are blocked or removed. I would much prefer to be addressed by a person seeking office either by taking the effort of knocking at my front door (block walking shows sincere concern) or speaking with me as I seek them out at a political debate or forum. I don’t want robo-calls six times a day or illuminating my Face Book news feed like it’s the Las Vegas strip. I believe I’m not in the minority when it comes to this intrusion. Thus, the more these messages are seen, the less participation on Election Day.
Voter revolt is another reason for not turning out to the polls. Many feel the person running for office is not adequate to fill the shoes. Poor representation from previous elected officials, unreliable administration, excessive taxation when not necessary, and an unclear message of how to resolve issues have folks resorting to apathy at the polls like it was crystal meth.
The eighty five percent who do not vote in Val Verde County cannot be totally blamed for their dependence of the voter apathy drug addiction. There are those who are the enablers. Some which are politicians themselves. For they do the research and know within a percentage point how many votes it will take to get them in the big red chair. Apathy, or the lack of turn out on Election Day, is what a few count on to seize the power. It’s much easier to win a low voter turn out election than attempt to reach all of those registered to vote. It’s also a cheaper campaign. It takes less mailers, and is easier on the feet for those long, hot, and tiring block walks.
For those who are looking for voter apathy addiction intervention for a loved one, or might be seeking rehabilitation for themselves; there are very capable people to get you the help that is needed. All one has to do is to go the United States Post Office or the Val Verde County Court House and ask for a Voter Registration Card. As for support groups within the election process; contact either your Republican or Democrat Party. For those few who wish to overcome apathy through self help study, might I suggest the Libertarian Party. Those choices are up to the individual.