The no-vote contest winner and a search for a new voice

June 14, 2006|by BOB MAGINNIS

Odds and ends from a columnist's notebook:

On May 24, I wrote a column as a follow-up to the "American Idol" finals, during which the two finalists received 63 million votes - As opposed to 62 million votes cast for President George W. Bush in 2004.

As I've noted, crowning a new "Idol" is easier than determining the next leader of the free world. Either the would-be "Idol" winner nails that Elvis tune or stinks up the place.

Candidates who look good and say the right things can still stink up the place after they're elected and the stakes are far greater than record contracts and Nielsen points.


And so I asked readers who don't vote to tell me why - and then tell me what would change their minds about going to the polls.

The top three entries would each get a $40-per-couple to the Hagerstown Exchange Club's annual pig roast at the Potomac Fish & Game Club on Saturday, June 24.

Not only would you get fed there, but you would also get a chance at a $1,000 bonanza prize and assorted smaller monetary prizes.

There were just three entries, which could mean a number of things. The first possibility is that even the prospect of winning $1,000 wouldn't be adequate compensation for the humiliation of admitting to 40,000 readers that you don't vote.

More likely was that if people don't care enough to vote, they don't care enough to read arguments on the issues on the editorial page.

What never occurred to me when I put together the contest was that people who actually do vote would enter.

When I e-mailed the winners and asked them to confirm their addresses so that I could check with the Election Board to make sure they were non-voters, this reply came back:

"If my memory serves me correctly, I do not recall as to whether you are/were an active voting citizen being a stipulation to enter the contest.

"I am a voting citizen. It is my right to vote and I do exercise it in every election. I did exactly as you mentioned when writing the article.

"I imagined myself in the shoes of others, recalled conversations that I have heard over the years and thought of a sales pitch, so to speak, that may work."

My first thought, which I relayed back to this entrant was, OK, I'll give you the ticket just for making the effort.

But I've changed my mind and since I am personally paying for the tickets, I'm entitled to do that. The contest rules clearly said, "To win, finish this sentence in 100 words or less: I don't vote, but I would if ..."

That wasn't ambiguous. I was looking for non-voters to tell me why they shun the polls and what, if anything, would change their minds.

The only entrant to follow the rules was Jonathan R. Burrs, who offered the following:

I don't vote, but I would if

I could touch my TV screen at home or use the remote control to select candidates.

The process of nomination produced candidates that didn't fall into the "lesser of evils" category.

More politicians had my interests in mind, as opposed to those of "big" business.

I believed candidates running for office were capable of accurately identifying issues that affect the masses and were able to perform problem resolution.

I could telepathically cast my vote."

Congratulations. The new mystery is why someone so thoughtful doesn't exercise his intellect at the polls.

I still have two tickets left. If two people e-mail me by Friday and tell me a true story about why they deserve them, they're yours.

The Herald-Mail editorial page is currently sampling a new columnist named Marie Cocco. We've asked for feedback and gotten plenty, pro and con.

Frankly, we need a woman's perspective on national issues and if Marie Cocco isn't it, we would like your suggestions. We would look seriously at anyone who is a serious thinker, as opposed to a writer acting as a shrill attack dog for liberals or conservatives.

That leaves out Ann Coulter and Mary McGrory has gone to glory, so please give us some help here. Thank you.

Bob Maginnis is Editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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