Well, election day was Tuesday last week in Arkansas. Thirty-two percent of all the people who are eligible went to the ballot boxes to decide whether deer could come to town so that any hunter could try to shoot them. It passed, 915 to 626. This happened in Heber Springs.
However, only about 20 percent of the state’s qualified voters showed up to elect the people who run the state and counties and represent us in the Congress. The turnout was the smallest since 1972.
What’s keeping Arkansans from going to vote? I asked Gilbert Baker, the chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, if it could be that since President Bush’s respect is down to 32 percent, people believe there’s no reason to go to vote. “If somebody says that,” Baker said, “it was just a copout for him not to vote... The reason people don’t vote now is that this is the most partisan time we’ve ever been in, and Democrats and Republicans are both to blame.”
Here are maybe more practical reasons:
(1) Many young people don’t know or care much about elections and politicians. That’s mostly because they were in public schools that no longer taught and required students to read newspapers, which is the only thing that really tells people what they need to know about government and the people who run it. We old people were taught that in school.
(2) Many think the TV news on the commercial stations of foreign owners is giving them the important local news, but it’s not true. TV bears down on fires, crimes, auto wrecks, sports, weather, animals, city visitors and do-good clubs and organizations. As for their national and international news, you will get some real news, but the amount is small because the 30-minute early and late news programs run only about 20 minutes of what they call news after the advertisements are shown.
(3) We elect rather than hire too many people to operate Arkansas, and it makes it tough to decide and remember whom we want to win even if they read newspapers. Like most Southern states, Arkansans elect seven people to run state government, while 17 states get by with electing only four or five. We have to elect two U. S. senators and four congressmen. Arkansas’s constitution requires 35 state senators,100 state representatives, seven Supreme Court judges, Court of Appeals judges, county judges, coroners, sheriffs, constables, collectors, county clerks, surveyors, justices of peace, treasurers, circuit clerks, assessors, mayors, city attorneys, aldermen, city clerks, etc. Most states are not so loaded because they don’t have 132-year-old constitutions like ours that require so many candidates.
Meanwhile, Pulaski County votes weren’t totally counted until Thursday and two more counties had not turned in their votes by Friday. Secretary of State Charlie Daniels should sue the company that we paid $15 million for voting equipment that often didn’t work. Hearing about that nonsense keeps people from voting. Daniels has to be sure that all precincts will be in good operation in order to bring out voters for runoffs in a few days.
Like millions of other people, I was sorry when “West Wing” went off NBC-TV May 14. “West Wing” was the only show that I made a serious try to see every one of the 154 installments in the last seven years.
Nothing unusual about that. An average of 19 million people watched “West Wing” every week when it first began. In one season, its actors won nine Emmys, the most ever won by a TV program in one year. “West Wing” was the work of fine actors and Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the first 87 episodes. He made them interesting, exciting and accurate accounts of what really happens in the White House, according to the program’s consultants like Marlin Fitzwater, press secretary to Ronald Reagan, and Dee Dee Myers, who was in Bill Clinton’s White House.
Michael Storey, who writes about TV for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, said that over the years he had received e-mail from people who wrote that they wished “President Jed Bartlet’s White House was the real thing.” Amen.
What makes me sad is looking over the lineup of programs for this fall – cops chasing crooks, survivors on islands, men cheating on wives and vice versa, performing autopsies while we are eating dinner. The Wall Street Journal took a survey of what people thought of the networks’ new lineup. Fifty-eight percent said none looked good to them. They also voted that FOX was going to be the best network to watch.