R.P. "PAT" BYRD: Campaigns lack the personal touch

July 8, 2014 

The primaries are over. The campaigns have turned now to accusations of voting fraud, suicide and racism. It has all made me think of the simpler times before television ads and telephone campaigning.

As a youngster, we would go to bazaars at the Slavonian Lodge, St. Michael's or the ball field next to Back Bay fire station for political rallies. There were games for the children, hot dogs and hamburgers and plenty of beer for the adults. The candidates would make their speeches on the stage and walk around in the crowd for a more personal touch.

On election day the politicians and their supporters would be at the polling places to persuade you to vote for them. They would even follow you into the polling place and attempt to hand you a card with their qualifications on it.

Registering to vote was also a much different process. I happened to be home on leave from the military just before turning 21. My dad took me to the courthouse in Gulfport to register. After telling the clerk I wanted to register, he said I would have to be tested. First I had to prove I could read and write. Next I had to recite three parts of the state constitution and interpret them. I was speechless. After reading three parts of it I interpreted them the best I could. The registrar then asked me who would pay my poll tax. My dad said he would, even though others would pay the fee with hopes I would feel obligated to vote for them or their candidate.

Over the years many changes have been made. Registering to vote has become much easier with the elimination of literacy test and poll taxes. Politicians and their supporters may no longer follow you into the polling place.

As I previously mentioned, primary election is over, now for the general election. It should be most interesting!



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