The final showdown between incumbent Senator Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel is less than two weeks away. In the mean time, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce wants to remind the business community of the importance of voting. Chamber officials said the low turnout for last week's primary election is an indication that people may not realize what's at stake.
A hotly contested Republican senate primary has drawn national media attention, but not much attention from Mississippi voters. In Harrison County, only 24 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the June 3rd primaries. Jackson County officials said turnout was also low there.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce said that's disturbing.
"When we saw the results as far as voter turnout and the percentage, it was very disappointing," said Chamber CEO Kimberly Nastasi."When we look at the statistics on a national level and Mississippi is ranked last and we see what's happening at the polls, it's very frustrating because every vote counts."
To promote the vote, the Chamber decided to hold a forum to include a panel discussion on voter apathy and how it affects the Chamber's 900 member businesses and their employees.
"Elected officials make a lot of decisions and they make decisions on behalf of the constituents," said Nastasi. "So they need to have an idea of who is in that position to make choices for them and on their behalf. Every vote they cast will impact them and will impact them either as a general resident of the Gulf Coast, or as a business person of the Gulf Coast or an employer."
Nastasi said, "Many jobs are tied to particular regulations or industry or funding, so it's very important people know how it relates specifically to them. On a local level, it's important because whoever is in office, they do impact our local businesses. We want to have lines of communication with them. We want to know if their beliefs and what their goals are in line with the objectives of the business community. "
The Chamber will also pass out voter registration forms. Although it's too late to register for the runoff, the chamber is thinking long term.
"It's a good time now, not only being a Mississippi issue, but a national issue," said Nastasi. "It's a really good time to shine a light on the problem because there are so many examples and illustrations that are timely and real, but also long term. This is not a conversation that will stop after the event."
Chamber officials said their efforts to raise voter awareness won't end on June 24.
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