About 82 percent of eligible voters in Mississippi are registered to do so—there are 1,856,533 registered and active voters in the state. That's good news. But being registered to vote is meaningless unless you wield your power as a citizen and actually head to a polling place.
The importance of non-federal elections cannot be understated. It's easy to believe that the federal government can swoop in and provide a safety net, even for people that bad state policy has hurt, but that false sense of security and over-reliance on national elections tends to lead to low voter turnout in statewide and local elections.
In recent years, voter excitement has increased in national elections amid the clamoring over social and wedge issues, from abortion rights to Medicaid and immigration issues to Second Amendment and gun control. These causes are obviously important and worthy of passionate debate.
This passion is needed just as much in state elections as in federal elections. The disconnect between state and national elections is dangerous for several reasons. For starters, Mississippi sits in 50th place on innumerable national scales for issues ranging from health to child wellness. That's not going to change unless people get more active in state elections.
If you're concerned, for example, about crime and potholes in Jackson, you have an opportunity to consider which candidates you think will help the capital city draw legislative appropriations from the state. If economic development in rural areas is your bailiwick, county board of supervisor races are also on the ticket. Suspect that employees down at city hall might be up to no good? Decide which state-auditor candidate will put an end to it.
When we're talking about the sheriff that responds to a burglar-alarm call at your house or the nagging traffic slowdowns on the interstate, you have a chance to say something about it on Nov. 3.
If you live in Mississippi and are proud to call it your home, if you want to hang a state flag outside your house that represents all people and send your children to functioning public schools, you have to vote for the people who think like you do, so that your conception of Mississippi life at its best can stay or become a reality. That's why voting matters; that's why Election Day is important. It's easy to complain for four years about policies that hurt people in this state, but voting is just as easy.
Less than one-third of registered voters in Hinds County voted in the August primary elections. Even though the primaries decided the outcome of many races, we encourage all registered voters to read up on the issues and the candidates (www.jfp.ms/2015elections is a good place to start) and find something that sparks your passion. Find something important enough to get you to the voting booth. The future is at stake.