We call ourselves a government of the people by the people, and for the people. But the sad truth is that participation in our democracy is very low. We are facing a crisis on which all political parties can agree: low voter turnout in elections.

In Mississippi, citizens recently had the opportunity to vote in statewide elections for everything from governor to coroner. It should have been marked as a must for every registered voter, but the sad truth is that Mississippians turned out in low numbers to elect officials closest to them.

Mississippi has more than 1.5 million registered voters, but on November 6, not even half of those people showed up to cast a vote.

The sad truth is that too many Mississippians – Republican, Democrat and independent – pay little attention to the process. It’s almost a matter of contempt for the great gift provided by the work of the Founding Fathers and framers of the American system.

Nobody knows for sure the outcome of recent races had every registered voter cast a ballot; but it’s virtually certain that an embarrassingly small minority of registered and/or eligible citizens chose the victors.

Low turnout respects no campaign or position. It is a rare political contest that causes people to line up for their turn at precincts.

Voting is a fundamental right of eligible citizens. In the mid-1960s, Congress passed the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The new law brought millions of African American voters to rolls in the South. The principle behind its passage applies to all citizens.

President Lyndon Johnson told Congress:

“This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose.

...”Our fathers believed that if this noble view of the rights of man was to flourish, it must be rooted in democracy. The most basic right of all was the right to choose your own leaders. The history of this country, in large measure, is the history of the expansion of that right to all of our people.”

The right to vote in Mississippi is a present possibility built and guaranteed in history at great sacrifice. Refusal or failure to participate is base ingratitude regardless of region, race or political affiliation.

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