Sussex County Delaware

Sussex Voters Need
to Make Voices Heard
Sussex Snapshots -- Oct. 10, 2002

SC Online Editor

NOTE: Kerin Magill is Content Editor of Sussex County Online. Her column, "Sussex Snapshots", appears each Thursday on this site.

Kerin Magill, Sussex County Online

Although the candidates will be duking it out for another few weeks, voters in Delaware have less than a week to register for the Nov. 5 general election. The deadline is Oct. 15.

Considering that we live in a state whose motto is "One Vote that Started a Nation," Delawareans' voting rates are pretty embarrassing.

In Sussex County in 2000, 68 percent of those who are REGISTERED to vote did so. That means 66,788 people voted -- about one in every household (there are 62,577 households in Sussex). Which sounds pretty good, until you realize that twice that number COULD have voted.

In Sussex County, there are an estimated 124,984 people over the age of 18, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even when you figure in non-citizens and convicted felons (which I'm lumping together only because neither are qualified to vote), the fact remains: More of us need to take advantage of our right to vote.

I still remember the first time I voted. It was the presidential election, 1980. I was 19 and I voted for John Anderson. I knew he wasn't going to win, but I just wanted him to get enough votes that he qualified for matching funds for his campaign. Hey, it was one of the few rebellious things I did as a teenager.

When I was about 10, I wrote to Richard Nixon telling him I wished I was old enough to vote for him. It got me a letter on White House stationery and a booklet about the First Family and the White House. I still have a few Nixon campaign buttons. I'm sure they'd be worth something if I hadn't decided in 1972 that they'd look much better embellished with orange marker.

But back then, I was a mirror of my parents' politics. Today, I have my own views and since the John Anderson vote I think I've used my powers at the ballot box pretty well. Sometimes my husband and I "cancel each other out" at the polls" because we don't always agree on the issues. But I've never seen that as a reason not to vote -- in fact it makes me feel all the more compelled to do so.

Americans in general are appallingly ignorant about public affairs in their own country. One of the most enduring impressions I have of a three-month London internship after college was this: Europeans are more attuned to American politics than most Americans. We don't understand just how much impact what goes on in America has on the rest of the world. I remember sitting at a Thanksgiving meal with people from Australia, South Africa, Poland, Venezuela and England and feeling woefully inadequate in my understanding of American politics and foreign affairs.

Local and state issues are no less important. Sussex County, as we all know, is growing. OK, it's not growing. As Herring Creek activist Til Purnell said a couple years ago, "it's not growing, it's filling up." Between 1990 and 2000, Sussex County's population grew by 38 percent. That's more than twice as fast as the state as a whole in the same period. Yet, it seems the state as a whole still doesn't get it, and Sussex issues don't tend to get support statewide.

That's why it's so important that Sussex Countians do two things. First, get yourselves informed. If there's a candidates' forum in your area, go. Ask questions. Read anything you can, but don't take someone else's word for how wonderful a candidate is.

Beginning next week, Sussex County Online will start posting profiles of candidates for offices Sussex Countians can vote for in our Campaign 2002 section.

Yo can also check out web sites such as, the League of Women Voters' site on which many candidates have biographies and issues statements. Many of the candidates themselves have web sites, as well. However you do it, take the time to find out who these people are.

Then, get yourselves to the polls on Nov. 5. Vote for the candidates you feel will best represent our interests in the General Assembly, in Congress, in the state Department of Justice, in County Council and in county offices.

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