Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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May 13, 2014

John Cannon: When your vote counts the most: 05/14/14

ASHLAND — Registered Republicans and Democrats will go to the polls Tuesday to nominate their candidates for U.S. senator, members of the U.S. House of Representatives, half the members of the Kentucky Senate, all members of the state House of Representatives, all county offices and members of some city councils and commissions and some mayors. Yet despite all those races on the ballot, we know that far fewer than half the eligible voters in this state will even take the time to go to the polls.

I’ve never understood this. The people we will be electing this year will have the greatest influence on our daily lives. They set our tax rates and spend our tax dollars. They pave our streets, pick up our trash and debate and enact local ordinances governing everything from animal control, to planning and zoning, to smoking in public.

They also are the elected leaders where our votes count the most. I voted for U.S. president in 2012, but I knew before I ever cast my ballot that day that my vote for president would be meaningless. We all knew that Republican Mitt Romney was going to easily carry Kentucky and regardless of how any of us voted, the only vote for president that counts — the Electoral College — was going to be 8-0 for Romney.

However, when I vote in local elections, I know my vote counts and can be the difference between victory and defeat. In fact, two years before he was elected Ashland mayor, Paul Reeves was re-elected to the city commission by the flip of a coin as he finished tied for the final seat on the commission. One vote could have changed local history.

In my first year in Ashland, I voted for a candidate for governor who received only four votes in my Forest Hills precinct. I could not help but wonder which three of my neighbors were smart enough to agree with me.

The only close presidential race I have voted in was the one between Al Gore and George W. Bush, but even then, it was the votes in Florida that made the difference, not those we cast in Kentucky. Yet, on the local level, there have been a number of extremely close races including the race for Boyd County judge-executive four years ago. In fact, all the races for the Boyd County Fiscal Court were extremely close that year, which means that everyone’s vote mattered.

Of course, Tuesday is just the primary and many of the winners will face opposition in November. But in a few races, no Republican has filed for office and Tuesday’s winner is assured victory in November. That bothers me. For one thing, it disenfranchises Republicans who have no one to vote for or against in the primary. I’m still naïve enough to think people should always be given a choice at the polls, but sadly that is often not the case.

Because I have been hobbled by my knee replacement surgery, I have not been out in the community for weeks, and the only “gift” I have received from a candidate was an emery board that arrived in the mail. In the old days, I got a lot of good stuff from candidates — matchbooks, needle and thread, pens, combs, calendars, etc. — but those days seem to be gone forever. I miss them.

I will limp into Crabbe school on Tuesday to cast my vote, and one of the poll workers there will be my granddaughter who is 18 and voting for the first time. I told her that I was proud of her for undergoing the training to be a poll worker and told her it would be a refreshing change to see someone younger than 70 working there.

JOHN CANNON can be reached at jcannon@dailyindependent.com or at (606) 326-2649.

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