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Published: Friday, 5/2/2003

Low turnout at the polls is systemic woe

Fritz Wenzel's April 21 column described the deliberations of a “committee to review voting around the state,” appointed by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. The committee is to focus exclusively on reasons why young people are dropping out of the electorate. No mention was made of social class differences in turnout. Among the suggestions offered by Secretary Blackwell's hired wise men was to teach courses on elections and taxes along with government.

This is a case of blaming the voter. Low voter turnout is a systemic, not an individual, problem. What the committee missed was that it is the job of political parties (and social movements) to mobilize voters.

American parties performed this function during the 19th century. In those times voter turnout ran to 80-plus percent in most northern states. Today's low participation rates are largely a result of the failure of parties and social movements to mobilize voters.

The last time large numbers of new voters were mobilized in the United States was in the 1960s. This increase was largely due to the efforts of the civil rights movement. Since that time a fifth of the electorate has dropped out, leaving us at barely 50 percent turnout in most presidential elections and far less in non-presidential elections. The people who have dropped out of the electorate are predominantly from the lower social strata.

The turnout numbers suggest we have a middle-class politics that is largely deaf to the needs of roughly the bottom half of our population. This, not [the lack of] civics courses for young people, is the real problem. Nothing less than dealing with the needs of those outside the voting universe will address the problems of “low voter turnout.”

DENNIS ANDERSON

Glenbrier Road

If the NCAA does not address the number of scholarships offered in football, athletic departments will continue to fail. It's time to quit blaming funding. Football would do well with 50 scholarships and schools should be allowed to break them up based on need.

If athletics were truly studied in the business sense, they do not make sense nor money. In the MAC, it's a losing effort. As schools grow to $30 million and above in athletic department budgets, the mid-majors are competing on the same fields as the big time and continue to put their schools at risk financially with budgets at one-third the level of the major conference schools.

The losers: Olympic and individual sports. The Mid-American Conference should be playing for national championships at the 1-AA level each and every Saturday, and the crowds would still be the same. The same should be said for the Big West Conference and the Sun Belt. There are years that 1-AA conferences outdraw the Mid-American in attendance. It's time for a serious reality check by athletic directors, boards of trustees, and school presidents of where the Mid-American Conference really belongs.

RANDY JULIAN

Colorado Springs, Colo.

Editor's note: Mr. Julian is a former swimming and diving coach at Bowling Green State University.

While a student at the University of Toledo, I enjoyed many teachings from the excellent political science department. I remember learning how President Ronald Reagan stated “American taxpayers are more qualified to spend their own money than politicians.”

I wish Sen. George Voinovich would see this and fully support President Bush's tax cut. Mr. Bush understands that something dramatic has to be done to jump-start the economy. Mr. Bush has shown strong leadership while in office. He was right about the first tax cut helping to limit the recession. He showed great leadership in the war on terror and after Sept. 11, and he was aggressive in our national defense liberating Afghanistan and Iraq.

Despite these accomplishments, he could face the same election fate as his father if he can't turn around the economy. As a Republican, Senator Voinovich owes it to his party and his country to do his part to give Mr. Bush's plan a chance. Mr. Bush has been right on a lot of items so far, and Mr. Voinovich should see the big picture. Or he may find himself with a Democratic president that he really disagrees with on policy matters.

I hate to sound like a Dixie Chick, but unless he changes his vote, I am embarrassed that Senator Voinovich is from my hometown of Cleveland.

DAVID BENTKOWSKI

Cleveland

People in the anti-American, peace freak community have been crying because they believe the Hollywood elite and the Dixie Chicks are being denied their right to free speech for their obvious adolescent approach to politics and public statements that aid and comfort the enemy during time of war.

I believe strongly in free speech, but I also believe that we as consumers do not have to spend money on people we find offensive.

When I listen to the Dixie Chicks I don't want to think of politics, but now every time I hear them I do, so I don't listen.

When I see a movie with Alec Baldwin in it I don't want to be reminded of his left-wing whacko-type politics, but I am, so I won't watch him anymore.

KIP BROWN

Cherry Hill

PETA applauds Montpelier lawmakers for taking steps to protect pit bulls and the public by considering a breed ban. The pit bull stands out as the most abused breed in dogdom. Pit bulls are often beaten and starved, trained to attack people and other animals, or chained to metal drums as “guard” dogs (an anti-chaining law would also help prevent tragedy and suffering). The potential for pit bulls' abuse and neglect - a recipe for disaster when they come in contact with humans and other animals - is too great and motivates efforts to protect them.

However, any breed ban should include a grandfather clause protecting all living dogs - including pit bulls - who are already in good homes and well-cared for. They deserve to live the remainder of their lives safely and peacefully.

Given the tragic overpopulation crisis that results in the deaths of millions of animals each year, PETA advocates a ban on all breeding. There are many wonderful dogs in shelters who desperately need homes.

PETA urges everyone who can provide a permanent, loving home to adopt one of these animals (and to spay and neuter it, of course). For more information, visit HelpingAnimals.com.

LIZ WELSH

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Norfolk, Va.

A place in our hearts for freedom fighters

Mary Alice Powell was so right in her article, “Why aren't the flags still flying?” I commend her for reminding our local residents that freedom comes with a price and must be protected. History is made of courageous men and women who have stood up and fought for the freedom of all Americans. Let us not forget to always keep these freedom fighters, throughout history and the present, in our minds and hearts.

JOY VAIL

Oregon

Voinovich does the right thing

It isn't very often that I can find a good reason to support a Republican politician, but I applaud Sen. George Voinovich for resisting President Bush's insane tax cut proposal. The tax cut, if passed, won't provide any economic stimulus, but it sure will make the very rich happy. It will also saddle our grandchildren and their children with paying for it.

GARY E. WULFF

Custar, Ohio



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