I visited today at lunchtime with Daniel Martinez, a candidate for the Amarillo College Board of Regents — and heard a bit of news about the upcoming local election.
It is that, according to Martinez, about 7,000 voters cast ballots early. Martinez thinks that bodes well for a big turnout when Election Day rolls around on Saturday.
I do not share my friend’s optimistic outlook.
What I think it means, sadly, is that a lot of Amarillo’s voters are casting their ballots early. And that’s it!
Then I watched a video posted on Facebook of an interview with outgoing Mayor Paul Harpole. The mayor said the city is projecting a turnout of 12,000 to 14,000 voters. Let that sink for a moment.
Harpole told Panhandle PBS’s Karen Welch that the city has 104,000 registered voters living here. Amarillo’s population is on the cusp of 200,000 residents.
If Harpole’s projection is correct, that puts the percentage of voter turnout at slightly more than 10 percent.
Hey, let’s stand up and cheer!
On second thought, let’s not!
Harpole then told a story about a couple in Fallujah, Iraq, who made sure to vote while gunfire was erupting just blocks away. The wife handed her infant child to her husband while she voted, Harpole said; she came back out, took the baby, and then her husband went in to cast his ballot.
Harpole then told Welch that Amarillo residents don’t have to face the prospect of getting shot on the street while they vote — which is his way of saying that we have no excuses, none at all, for refusing to have our voices heard in this critical election.
I am running out of ways to urge residents to cast their ballots in these local races. The very idea that nine out of 10 Amarillo residents would sit this election out — and leave these decisions to other residents — means that the democratic process is in danger of going on life support.