Letters to the Editor, May 10

May. 09, 2014 @ 11:07 AM

Turnout lamentably low

Tuesday's primary voting confirmed the overwhelming majority of the electorate can't be bothered.  In an off-year primary vote, over the past eight election cycles, the average turnout has been 15 percent.  This past Tuesday fit that pattern with five of six registered voters not even bothering to show up.

For some, the attitude may well be "I'll take a pass and vote in November during the General Election when things matter."  But that approach is misguided.  In Orange County, the primary vote for sheriff, who needed less than 5 percent of the electorate to advance to a run-off, for example, will determine who prevails in November as there is no GOP opposition. 

In the 6th Congressional District, gerrymandered to make it a bullet-proof GOP district, again the primary winner will become our next congressperson.  Keep in mind, the prior Orange County sheriff held the position for 31 years and retiring Rep. Howard Coble was reelected for 15 terms. Given the power and name recognition of incumbency, whoever prevails in Tuesday's primary could conceivably be our elected official for a generation.

In any other country, people would question the attachment of Americans to the fundamental right to vote with such a lamentably low turnout.  The winners of Tuesday's elections may well be the most deserving and qualified candidates.  What I do question is the near unanimity of people who feel entitled to complain about the government or an incumbent, but can't be bothered to exercise the invaluable right of franchise.

Edmund C. Tiryakian

Hillsborough

Get ‘smart on crime’

Of all people, you’d think the party of business (Republicans) would appreciate the nature of business.  Businesses can’t exist without investment in that business. Businesses borrow money to pay for it.  But investors have to be careful where they put your money. Their investment needs to pay off at some point, even if it is far down the road.  

As a society, we have been investing.  We’ve put big money into the war on drugs. We’ve put big money into incarceration (we now are the most incarcerated nation on earth).  This war has been going on for 40 years.  In 1972, there were 300,000 persons in prison.  Now there are 2.3 million.  Just one low-income project in Louisville, Kentucky, for example,  eats up $15 million a year in costs to incarcerate its teen and adult residents (“Frontline: Prison Nation”).  Almost every resident there has served prison time.  Good investment?

President Barack Obama is looking to pardon thousands of inmates who were incarcerated for drug use that today is a misdemeanor (at least for a certain color of folks).  Many “three-strike” sentences were based on drug crimes, resulting in extended prison sentences that now can’t be justified.  We release inmates without a dime in their pocket and no valid ID.

We need to abandon “tough on crime”  and get “smart on crime.”  The solutions are out there, we just need to use them.   We also need to acknowledge the institutional racism that exists in this country.  It’s a scandal.

Larry Bumgardner

Durham