819 votes?Why bother?

A few days ago we lamented the way the North Carolina General Assembly seemed to be continually overstepping its bounds, meddling in strictly local affairs in various communities around the state, most specifically this time in its shady little move to ban any moratorium a local government might place on fracking in their communities (Mount Airy News, Oct. 7 “Once again, General Assembly overrides local governments.”)

Now we’re wondering if we should have been so harsh on the General Assembly. Not because we’ve changed our mind about fracking, nor have we changed our mind about supporting the idea that local governments should make the decisions regarding their local communities.

We’re wondering if anyone really cares about government, if it matters to them that the General Assembly is taking more and more authority from the locally elected officials? Heck, we might just as well step aside and let the feds come in and run every local board, every local administrator, determine what every community will do.

Why do we suddenly consider this fatalistic approach to government?

Because no one seems to care about their local government, as evidenced by the paltry turn-out at Tuesday’s primary.

This isn’t about who won, who advanced to the general election and who is out. This isn’t about the redevelopment commission. This is about the fact that in a world where millions — hundreds of millions — of people would literally give their eye, teeth (or more) for the opportunity to vote on their leadership, just 819 Mount Airy residents bothered to vote. Out of 6,464 voters, 5,645 couldn’t be bothered to take a few minutes out of their day to cast a ballot. Locally, elections officials even ran early voting periods to accommodate folks who might have been too busy on election day.

Those figures aren’t final, and they may go up a bit, but probably by no more than a couple of dozen.

We suspect far more than 819 different people have been posting on Facebook in recent weeks, complaining about Mount Airy’s commissioners, or candidates, or various groups working within the city to bring about change.

Yet when given the opportunity to take an active, long-lasting role in the future of the city, no one bothers to show up.

To be blunt, that’s simply pathetic. Quite candidly, if the turnout for the general election is not remarkably higher than that, the city residents deserve whatever they get in terms of leadership — whether it be good or bad. And they have no right to complain.


We’ll also bring up the issue of whether the city should even bother with these ridiculous primaries.

This is a debate that seems to crop up from time to time, and we’ve been firmly in the anti-primary camp for several years, and we remain there.

After all was said and done, the city commissioners seemed to settle on the fact that they wanted a candidate to win an election with a majority of the vote — 50 percent plus 1 — rather than a plurality, as would often be the case in a three- or four-person run-off.

We’ve never considered that to be a strong argument, given that Bill Clinton won office, twice, with less than 50 percent of the vote, and we didn’t see anyone clamoring that he was less of a president because he didn’t get 50 percent plus one. Then again, he joined a long line of presidents who failed to achieve the 50-percent mark in the popular vote, including Abraham Lincoln in 1860, John Quincy Adams in 1824, Woodrow Wilson in 1912, and of more recent vintage, Richard Nixon in 1968 and George W. Bush in 2000.

If it’s not necessary for the president to receive 50 percent of the popular vote in order to take office, we’re a little puzzled why it’s such a big deal for city commissioners to do so.

It’s all really semantics anyway. If two candidates advance from a primary to an election based on the fact they finished first and second among just 13 percent of the city’s voters, and the eventual general election probably won’t even pull half of the city’s voters, is anyone really pretending they have a mandate from city residents?

At $10,000 (or more), a primary costs just too much for 800 votes to be cast. Once the election dust settles, we hope whoever is on the city board of commissioners will revisit the idea of killing off the wasteful city primaries.

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