July 2018 Editorial Winner

Don't waste your vote on candidates who aren't accountable
Kim Poindexter, Tahlequah Daily Press

Are you registered to vote in the Aug. 28 runoff election? If not, you have until Aug. 3 to get that way – and you should do it before it’s too late.
Since the contentious November 2017 general election, a number of people have awoken from what might be described as an “electoral stupor.”
In many parts of the country, Americans are registering in higher numbers than in years past. It might be tempting to attribute the sudden uptick in a distaste for President Donald Trump, but statistics show that’s not necessarily the case.
Registration numbers have certainly increased in Cherokee County since 2016, when there were 22,556 active voters. Of those, 13,369 were registered as Democrats, 6,484 were Republicans and 2,703 were independents.
Party registrations for 2018 show the GOP has gained some ground. There are 12,423 registered Democrats, 7,230 Republicans, 66 Libertarians and 3,042 independents.
If widespread disgust with Trump was driving registration, it stands to reason Republicans would be losing ground – unless they’re part of the movement to “take back the party,” which is also occurring in the Democratic Party.
One thing is for certain: For good or for ill, voter anger put Trump into office, but that anger wouldn’t have manifested had not voter apathy been a factor in previous years. That apathy – the feeling that individual votes don’t count – has long kept Americans from the polls. The message to career politicians was that they could get away with whatever they wanted to, because they were “safe” in their seats.
As both parties pursued self-serving goals, more and more Americans were lost in the shuffle, left in the dust, and thrown under the bus. Finally, they had had enough – and they voted for Trump.
That may or may not have been good for the country, depending on which side of the chasm a voter stands.
But that chasm is growing ever wider, and the only way to bring it back to a mere crack is by voting for people at every level who promise to at least try to serve the common good. That means rejecting out of hand anyone who pledges absolute fealty to a governor, a party or, yes, the president of the United States. He, like everyone else, took an oath of loyalty to the Constitution, not a political party, a flag, or his own interests. And that should be true of any elected official.
It’s too late to change party affiliation; in even-numbered years, there are restrictions. The window of opportunity for that closed April 1 and it won’t reopen until after the runoff. But for the general election, party affiliation hardly matters, because voters can quietly walk into the booth and let their consciences be their guides, regardless of what they’ve told candidates and their volunteers, or pushy family and friends.
Believe it or not, there are several worthy candidates on ballots this time around in Oklahoma. Some will square off in the runoff; others will have to wait for the general in November. But the time is right to ask questions.
The Tahlequah Daily Press has already published Q&As for local and regional races, and we have explained the histories and ostensible qualifications of state-level hopefuls. We will continue to cover comprehensive forums when they arise, and we will cobble together more stories on the candidates’ views.
Pay attention to what’s happening around you. Contact these candidates and ask them where they stand on the issues. Your vote really does count. Don’t waste it on candidates who refuse to answer your questions or those of the media. Those folks aren’t accountable to the public, and they don’t deserve your support.

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