Sunday, March 26, 2006


One thing I've always wondered about is why more people come out to vote in Presidential and state level races than they do in local races. Sure, it's important to vote in higher-level races. But in actuality, votes have less impact in those races than they do in local races.

In local races sometimes one or two votes can make the difference between one candidate or the next.

Lower local voter turnout is usually viewed as an indication that the voters are fairly happy with their community. In some cases it can be attributed to apathy. Overall though, people don’t come out to vote in local races if they don’t have an ax to grind.

Take the recent election for County Commission Post 1 as an example. Of the 62,692 eligible registered voters, only 5,240 voted (8.37%). Compare those numbers to the following recent results:

July 20th, 2004 Primary – 21,554 or 38.11% voted
Nov. 2nd 2004 Tyrone election – 1,700 or 53.83% voted
Nov. 23rd 2004 Fayette County General Election RUN-OFF (Court of Appeals Judge) – 3,768 or 6.17% voted
Dec. 6th 2005 Peachtree City RUN-OFF – 6,042 or 29.03%

If you’re familiar with local politics in the various cities you know that the elections noted above in Tyrone and Peachtree City were highly charged. More people voted in Peachtree City in the RUN-OFF than did in the countywide County Commission race. A higher percentage turned out in the Tyrone election.

Now, back to the original question! Why is it that more people turn out to vote in Presidential or state office elections than in local elections? Point in case is the Nov. 2nd 2004 election – 86.27% of Fayette County's eligible voters turned out.

Not only do local voters have more impact on the outcome of local races, but also the outcome has more impact on the voters. The President affects the tone of the country and has a broad influence in many areas. However, local officials determine whether taxes are going to be raised, what will happen to the lot next door, whether water bills will be increased, how the county will look, whether the road in front of your house will be fixed this year or in ten years and many other areas that impact directly. Is your neighborhood going to be cluttered with unsightly signs? Can you build the pool you want in your backyard? Are they going to put a new big box store on the road you take to work?

Not only do they have more impact on day-to-day lives but also they’re easier to access. The chances of getting to see the President up close and personal is almost zip for most of us. But any of us can pick up the phone and make an appointment to see our local council members or county commissioners. We run into them at church or in a restaurant. They attend local political party events. They can be found at many charity events, on the golf course, in the grocery store shopping.

We often complain that we don’t know who to vote for in higher-level offices because we don’t have access to information. On the local level most of us know someone who knows those running for office if we don’t know them ourselves.

I don’t have an answer to why we turn out in record numbers for higher-level elections rather than local elections. I would be interested in hearing why you didn’t vote in the recent county commissioner race, if you didn’t. Why was it that fewer people turned out to vote in a countywide race than did for a run-off in Peachtree City?

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