Low voter turnout in elections affects Hattiesburg


When Toby Barker was elected as Hattiesburg’s new Mayor in June of 2017, he did so in an election that saw only 35 percent of voters turnout. This translated to 5,681 citizens voting for Barker and 3,797 voting for Dupree. Barker took office on July 3, 2017 and will serve the city of Hattiesburg for the next four years.

Barker’s election left a seat vacant in the Mississippi House of Representatives, which caused a special election to be called to fill the seat. The special election took place on Sept. 12 between Missy McGee, Kathryn Rehner, Casey Mercier, and Cory Ferraez. 3,325 of 15,753 eligible voters showed up that day and sent McGee and Rehner to a runoff election which was held on October 3rd. McGee secured the house seat when 2,107 registered voters cast their ballots for McGee compared to Rehner’s 1,000.

35 percent of voters turned out for the mayoral election.

21 percent of voters turned out for the special election.

19.7 percent of voters showed up to the election that placed a new public servant in the House of Representatives in the state of Mississippi.

100 percent of citizens have the right to vote.

100 percent of citizens have the duty to vote.

On any given day, you can scroll through Facebook, Twitter, even Instagram and see someone complaining about something.

“Our roads need to be fixed.”

“Our school’s budget just got cut.”

“Why doesn’t somebody do something about this?”

“Why are they letting him get away with this?”

“Who put this idiot in office?”

The short answer is: we did. Abstaining to vote for someone who you believe should be in office is a vote for someone you believe should not be in office. The American democracy is a system meant to give each individual a voice. The right to vote is fundamental to the American system. Waiting to vote in the Presidential election only is waiting too soon. Our representatives and senators are the ones who will vote on new laws, designate and approve budget cuts and be a voice for us. Sitting back and saying one vote, your vote, doesn’t matter is no longer good enough.

“To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.” -Louis L’Amour

When election results show such low voter turnout, we must ask ourselves a critical question. Did people not vote because they didn’t care or because they weren’t able to? The discussion of voter turnout must begin a larger discussion of the way our elections take place. College students who live on campus can register to vote in local elections. But how many of these students have cars? Does Hattiesburg run a dependable public transportation system to get them to the polls and back to class?