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A case for self-inflicted voter suppression

May 05, 2021 - 00:00
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After working the election Saturday and on Examiner articles Sunday, I finally had some down time Sunday night to think about the dismal turnout at the county’s four early voting locations and six Election Day locations. As a disclaimer, my figures are approximate and based on access to information from my lowly position on the election totem pole. Our capable Elections Administrator Lucy Ybarra is the real authority on the numbers, but you don’t have to be an Einstein to see that Grimes County had a voting problem.

I guess what has my dander up is that some duly elected scoundrels in Washington, D.C. are attempting a federal takeover of our city, county, and state elections. The propaganda pushing the takeover is “voter disenfranchisement,” or today’s buzz word, “voter suppression.” But I have to tell you that from where I sat Saturday at the Navasota Center, any voter disenfranchisement and suppression was self-inflicted.

The number of registered voters in Grimes County increased from 16,000-plus to around 18,000-plus during 2020. Given that we had approximately 900 in-person and mail-in voters for this election, turnout was not only dismal but pathetic in my opinion.

There wasn’t one race on Grimes County’s ballots that did not impact taxpayers’ pocketbooks, i.e., sales tax, a school bond, or selecting someone to make decisions on our behalf. Luckily for the small, incorporated towns of Bedias and Iola with a combined turnout of about 35, at least the majority who voted understood that reauthorizing their sales tax would continue certain services until it has to be voted on again. Just think what could have happened had the 32 yes voters voluntarily suppressed themselves!

In Navasota’s city council election, we had a disappointing turnout of 227 voters out of 4,153 registered. On more than one occasion this year, our unpaid city council members have been accused of not being responsive, i.e., that some people feel like their voices aren’t being heard. The “voices” had eight opportunities between April 19 and May 1 to be heard on matters related to local government, but the numbers don’t lie. Most voices countywide were MIA.

Another part of the election process that warrants taxpayers’ attention is the State’s mandate to provide early voting, and the cost of doing so. This election cycle, Grimes County taxpayers paid $10,000-plus to 30 election workers to sit for eight days, only to serve 649 in-person voters. While there is cost-sharing between the county, cities, and school districts, depending on the makeup of the election, the bill is ultimately paid for by taxpayers.

As the wife, mother, and daughter of veterans, it was disappointing to see local government, the government closest to the people with the most immediate impact on our wallets and quality of life, generate so little interest.

A number of Saturday’s voters shared their philosophy about voting as they walked out the door. Simply put, if you don’t vote, you forfeit the right to complain. With about 17,000 voices on mute by choice, I guess it’s going to be really quiet in Grimes County for the next two or three years!

Connie Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and award-winning columnist. She writes feature news articles on a weekly basis and an opinion column as the mood strikes her.