Early voting in Saline County ended yesterday, May 19. In the thirteen day span that sites were open for residents to submit early votes, 6,888 ballots were cast. Several questions arise from an analysis of these numbers.
First, will early voting numbers exceed the number of votes cast today, election day? Historically, primary elections such as this one fail to generate a turnout of any significant size. In this primary, I would not be surprised to see early votes near the same numbers as election day votes. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. County Clerk Doug Curtis has worked hard to make voting early as convenient as possible in the 75 sq. miles that is Saline County.
Second, the number of votes per early voting site indicate a strong turnout from Hot Springs Village. With 6,143 registered voters in the Saline County portion of HSV, the early vote turnout of 1,104 represents a 17.9 percent turnout BEFORE election day. The gated retirement community is largely conservative and messages regarding the defeat of Obamacare, the preservation of Social Security and Medicaid along with protecting seniors are ones which get the attention of voters and move them to the poles. They are strong "for" voters and tend to support a candidate rather than vote against another. Republicans, and Democrats, know this very well. Ask any Republican and they will tell you that if a candidate does not carry the far-edge sequestered conservative stronghold split in two by a county line with Garland County, it doesn't matter what happens in the rest of the county. The candidate will lose. What the voters in HSV don't know is the day-to-day reputation, good or bad, of some of the candidates. They only see them at gatherings, speeches or fundraisers in the candidates most polished and well-groomed versions. They don't get to see them as they walk down the street or behave in an unscripted manner. For lack of a better comparison, they only get to see the silk purse, rather than the sow's ear the rest of us have the pleasure to observe.
Don't get me wrong. It isn't the fault of the residents of HSV. Not a bit. They see what is presented, just as most others do when going to candidate appearances. They don't see the sometimes dirty tactics and threats. It's not their fault. They are the object of the pandering, not the reason for it.
I understand politics and the reasoning for a candidate to go where the pickings are easy and the cost/benefit ratio is highest. If I was a candidate, I'm sure I'd do the same thing.
Finally, I don't blame the Republicans for being in control of every possible corner of politics and elected office in the county. It isn't their fault. Blame the Democrats, at least in this preferential primary election. The number of Dems who braved the wrath of a Republican onslaught can be counted on one hand and, to be frank, is a detriment to solid, representative governance.
The pendulum has swung to the far end of political control. Is it the strategy of the Democrats in Saline County to allow the Republicans to gain the rope they need to eventually turn the symbolic red tie into a noose?
Is it a good strategy?
Is it giving voters a fair chance at electing truly representative government, especially in non-partisan offices?
Not in the least.
Instead of "Failure is not an option" being the rallying cry for political parties in our county, it seems the whimper has become "Choice is not an option."