To the Editor:
Three letters in the May 16-22 edition of the Smoky Mountain News reflect differing views about what the voting results on Amendment One mean, but all three, unintentionally I presume, use numbers from the actual vote count in a misleading way.
The North Carolina “electorate” is the 6,296,759 people who are registered voters. On May 8 only 2,182,675 of those people chose to actually cast ballots in the primary. In other words only 34.66 percent of the electorate voted. Only 35 out of every 100 eligible voters bothered to vote. The true “majority,” the 65 out of 100, said nothing in the primary because they did not think it was important to vote.
Amendment One passed because 61 percent of those voting (the 35 percent) voted in favor and 39 percent voted against. So Amendment One was not passed by “a majority of North Carolinians” as one letter claimed, because only 35 percent voted. Neither was it “passed with the support of 61 percent of the electorate” as another letter said because the amendment got 61 percent of votes actually cast by 35 percent of the electorate. Also the votes were 61 percent for the amendment and 39 percent against, so the margin of victory is only 22 percent percent and not 61 percent as the other letter claimed.
Is it really that important to be “so ticky” about how the numbers were used? Yes, it is really important to understand exactly what the voting numbers are saying. The way these numbers were used in the letters left readers with the impression that a strong majority of North Carolinians supported Amendment One, but the reality is that barely 1 in 5 North Carolinians actually voted for the amendment, which is now part of our constitution.
When only 35 percent of the eligible voters bother to vote, any winning vote is a minority opinion even if it gets 100 percent of the votes cast. Amendment One got 61 percent of the votes cast but that was from a minority of the electorate to begin with. Sixty one percent of 35 is 21. That means only 21 of every 100 eligible voters voted for the amendment, 14 voted against it and 65 did not vote at all. Since when is 21 out of 100 a majority opinion?
People who are passionate about an issue or candidate will usually show up to vote on it when they get a chance. If their view happens to be a minority view within the whole electorate, it can only become law when the majority remain silent by not bothering to vote. Democracy is not a spectator sport; it only works when a true majority participate by taking time to vote. This must be what Plato was talking about when he said, “The price of apathy is to ruled by evil men.”