Editorial: Officials’ continued misdeeds should inspire more, not less, participation by local voters

2 months ago 98

We’ve just completed the first quarter of 2024, and some voters might see increasing reasons to give up on our political system and just stay home on election day.

We hope that doesn’t happen.

Major candidates for various offices, from the presidency on down to congressional and state government positions, seem be be growing less palatable for many people who are tired of demagoguery and bickering, and want to see elected officials do what they are supposed to do — bring differing views to the table and reconcile them into laws and policies that seek to serve the interests of the greatest number of their constituents.

Worse, corruption and malfeasance continue to plague the Rio Grande Valley. In three months a handful of current or former officials, both elected and appointed, have run afoul of the law. Last month, a former Starr County justice of the peace pleaded guilty to drug charges and Progreso’s mayor was arrested and charged with possession and intent to sell drugs, on the same day.

These cases only add to the long list of crimes Valley officials have been accused, and often convicted, of committing. South Texas’ four lowest border counties — Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Zapata — have the dubious distinction of all having at least one county judge and one sheriff, the counties’ top administrative and law enforcement officials, charged with crimes ranging from bribery and bid rigging to drug trafficking and even solicitation of murder. City and county commissioners, school board members and even state legislators from the Valley also have found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

The Valley has earned a nationwide reputation as a den of corruption. Politicians and pundits, many from other parts of the country, have likened our corruption to that of Mexico or Third World countries.

Frustration over so many officials’ misdeeds, however, should not arouse public apathy. Rather, they should inspire more people to help reform the Valley and select honest and responsible officials. That requires more, not less, voter participation.

Brownsville voters hold up their “I Voted” stickers on Election Day Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 7, 2023, at the Cameron County Courthouse. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

Traditionally, local elections like those many political entities will hold next month, draw low numbers of voters. Participation often is as low as one-tenth of those who could cast ballots. Unfortunately, such low numbers make it easier for corrupt people can get elected, as their confederates and supporters, who might have a tangible stake in getting their candidate elected, can cast enough ballots to sway the results.

People who are registered to vote should commit to taking back their community. The best way to do that is to learn what they can about the candidates, and make the best informed votes they can.

The amount of work this requires is minimal — it’s certainly less painful than the cost of their tax dollars, and services, that are lost to officials’ corruption.

Those who aren’t registered but are eligible have until April 4 to vote in the May 4 elections; early voting starts April 22.

Our Valley already has lost too much to political corruption. More people should commit to being part of the effort to improve it, starting with becoming more active voters.

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