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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fewer Voters Cost Too Much For All. AND WE AGREE.

Editorial | Fewer voters cost too much for all

The people have spoken. Or, given the pitifully low turnout numbers in Tuesday’s elections, maybe they whispered.

Heading in to Tuesday, prognosticators expected between 15 percent and 20 percent of eligible voters to show up to exercise their most precious right as American citizens. Those forecasters ought to bet on the Derby because they were about smack-dab on the nose: Local turnout didn’t make it to 16 percent, and state numbers didn’t even graze 15 percent. There’s no way to paint a smiley face on any of that.

Compare and contrast Tuesday’s sparse turnout in Kentucky with this ABC News observation about Wednesday’s historic elections halfway around the world: “Long lines snaked out of polling stations across Egypt ... as Egyptians went to cast their ballots in the country’s first free and fair presidential elections, the first in Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted February 2011.”

And then ponder the message found in the almost lone voice of a Louisville voter, quoted in The Courier-Journal on the same day freedom-hungry Egyptians were jamming their polling places. She was exactly right when she said: “In some ways it makes my vote count more because there are (fewer) people voting.”

Think about that. Fewer votes do count more when few people vote. And how is representative government supposed to work when the people who are supposed to be represented don’t even bother to show up to elect their representatives? If Americans think government is broken, and we keep hearing that (and hearing that), perhaps they ought to consider their own couch-potato roles in that hobbled system.

And then, just for added alarm, toss in the role money — especially outside money, unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Citizens United decision — plays in some of today’s elections, one in particular, and what that might mean to all those who just can’t be bothered.

The win of Thomas Massie, the tea party- and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul-backed Republican candidate in Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District primary, was just hours old when The New York Times filed a story about how a 21-year-old Texan armed with an inherited $1 million was able to pump more than $500,000 into Mr. Massie’s race, or as the Times dubbed it, “a little-watched Republican House primary in Northern Kentucky.” His opponents didn’t stand a chance against the “saturation advertising,” especially when so many voters are so unengaged.

It is difficult not to be disturbed by how the story advances the Massie template. Beyond the Kentucky race — in the November general election, Mr. Massie will face Democrat Bill Adkins for the U.S. House seat being vacated by the GOP’s retiring Geoff Davis — the story details how the scenario is being reproduced by followers of Ron Paul (daddy of Rand), in other parts of the country.

“Karl Rove’s fear-and-smear-style Republicans are going to wake up at the end of the year and realize we are now in control of the Republican Party,” said, per The Times, the man who runs the “Super Pac” that flooded Kentucky with money in support of Mr. Massie.

It’s one thing for Republicans, who have made their own beds with extremists, to have to live with these control issues. It’s quite another thing for the rest of the country to have to live with them, too.

But that is exactly what can happen if most voters decide to sit things out and let a few others decide their futures, and the futures of their communities and country, for them. Will we wake up at the end of the year and realize Ron and Rand Paul and their followers are in control of the country, too? Take a look at the scorched-earth proposals they make, and see how they fit with the America you envision.

John Ramsey, the young man with money to bankroll the ad glut in the 4th Congressional District race, asks in The Times story, “How much money would you spend for freedom?”

It’s his right as an American to ask that question, but it’s the wrong question.

The right question to ask after an American election in which only about 15 percent of the eligible voters bothered to cast ballots, is: “Why are you letting other people and other people’s money speak for you?”

A continuing silence may provide painful truth to the old Bob Dylan line that money doesn’t talk — it swears.

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