Voter turnout encouraging,

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 14, 1999

despite feelings about outcome


Published Oct. 14, 1999

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

As I listened for election returns Tuesday night on the radio and television, I was surprised by the results.

I expected Alabamians to vote in favor of the Alabama Education Lottery and free college tuition for honor roll students. Instead, the people of Alabama stood up for their values and voted down Gov. Don Siegelman’s lottery for education.

Although I disagree with the majority of voters on this issue, it was heart-warming to know that so many people felt deeply enough about the issue to go to the polls.

In Pike County, 42 percent of the registered voters cast their ballots. According to Pike County Probate Judge Bill Stone, that is far above the usual election turnout of 25 to 30 percent of registered voters. Despite rain, voters turned out in droves at the polls.

Voter apathy is a constant problem in this country. On election day, people think they are too busy to go to the polls or that their vote does not really matter, but I believe it does.

When average working-class citizens don’t vote, the decision about who runs our government is not made by the people but by special interest groups.

Even though the lottery did not pass, I feel fortunate the Alabama Legislature gave us the chance to vote on it. It seems the majority will get their wish for no lottery in Alabama.

I was also pleased to hear in the governor’s concession speech that he is not giving up on his mission of education reform.

When Siegelman told reporters a few weeks ago that he had no back up plan if the lottery failed, I was concerned. It sounds like he is going to come up with other ways to fund education.

Siegelman has proposed a lot of changes he wants to make – teacher pay raises, computers in classrooms and newer schools buildings – but I hope this money will not be taken from other parts of the education pie, especially the higher education budget.

It is clear from the debates I heard about the lottery that a lot of voters want education reform, but they didn’t want to use lottery money to pay for it.

Several methods of funding education have been suggested. Increased property taxes and sales taxes would be good ways to fund education. I think a lot of people would support this because unlike the lottery, these taxes would charge more to those who can afford it, unlike the lottery. Many lottery opponents have said the lottery would most often be played by those who can’t afford it.

Regardless of what you think is the best way to fund education, contact your state legislators.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state’s $2 million franchise tax, that money is going to have to come from somewhere – let’s hope it’s not the education budget.

Michelle J. Wilson is a staff writer for The Messenger.