Columns/Opinion, Editorials

Recent turnout pattern is to celebrate early voting results then bemoan election’s total numbers

Elections really say more about the electorate than the candidates.
Though the focus is on who wins and loses races, voter turnout is the true measure of success or failure of any election.
Since the advent of early voting during the 2002 primary many habitually celebrate those totals. Then bemoan the actual turnout in its entirety of practically every election.
For instance 68,391 cast a ballot during the most recent early voting period.
The results of this early voting period are undeniably positive, relatively speaking.
Relative in the sense they are up by 51 percent from the 45,143 ballots cast during the early voting period in 2014.
These numbers have continued to steadily increase from the 14,000 votes in the 2002 primary during the state’s inaugural early voting period.
There’s also news that more than 53,000 new voters have registered since January 2016, 14,339 of them high school students, who are now eligible to vote..
Locally, we can also take a little pride in Monongalia County’s ranking for early voting — No. 2 statewide, with more than 3,600 votes recently cast.
Yet, it’s still safe to save all your kudos until after the polls close this evening.
Those early voting numbers are also all relative to the fact that this is a midterm election, when presidential or gubernatorial candidates are not on the ballot.
For perspective, more than 100,000 voters turned out for the 2016 primary’s early voting period.
More perspective — there are about 1.22 million registered voters in the state, that’s down 50,000 from the 2016 general election.
No, today’s turnout cannot possibly be expected to match a presidential election year, but the consequences of this election are also great.
For example, all 100 seats in the Legislature’s House of Delegates are on the ballot, though 18 incumbents failed to file for re-election. In the state Senate, half of its 34 seats will be on the ballot with every incumbent seeking re-election. Many are in a fight to win their party’s nomination.
Meanwhile, four of the state’s five congressional seats are also up for grabs.
And locally, races for school boards, judicial seats and county commissions are also on the ballot.
Still, we cannot shake this nagging feeling that despite early voting’s growing popularity and when so much is at stake, we’ll be fooled again by the turnout.
Many who vote won’t be happy with the results and the negative tone of some campaigns is also disconcerting.
But as disappointing as all that may be, congratulations are in order to everyone who casts a ballot today.
It says a lot about you.