Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Voter Apathy

Once again voter turnout in Fayette County was... well, pathetic. Close to 75% of the registered voters in the county didn't bother to vote. With all the options available these days there is simply no excuse other than apathy. Early voting was available in Tyrone, Peachtree City and Fayetteville. Absentee voting is easier than it ever has been. The polls were open from 7 in the morning until 7 at night on the 15th.

I don't know that the end result would have been any different if 100% of the voters had turned out. The end result isn't the point of this diatribe.

In the past Fayette County has been known for the involvement of its voting population. We've always had high turnout. However, in the last 3 elections we've had extremely poor voter participation.

When the citizens stop voting I see it as a sign that the county is headed in the wrong direction. When people who should care about what their elected officials are doing stop being involved, stop voting, then special interests take over. When no one cares enough to watch those who are directing the future of the county, deals are made, corners are cut and ultimately the citizens wake up and wonder what happened to their once-great way of life.

A large number of people moved to the county in recent years to get away from what they perceived as less-than-stellar living conditions. They chose Fayette County because of its great schools and great quality of life.

Read the newspapers. Our way of life is going quickly by the wayside. When I moved here my son was entering the first grade. Life was great, peaceful, no crime to speak of aside from the occasional kid prank.

Now? I hear from the Fayetteville police that they won't let their wives shop alone in the Pavilion. I hear from my now-closed favorite restaurant that the store next to them was robbed at gun point three time in the past year or so. I read about robberies and mayhem. We're being pressured to allow more multi-family housing. Old farms are being sold to developers. Fayetteville is building like there's no tomorrow. Big boxes are the norm. Large empty buildings dot the roads while new buildings are going up. I could go on and on.

We're becoming just like those places many left. And yet almost 75% of those who could make a difference can't be bothered to take the time to find out who's running for office and go to the polls.

I've been writing about this each election and it doesn't make a bit of difference. The only people who read this are the ones who agree and vote. Those who don't vote won't make it past the first paragraph, if they make it past the title.

It's a shame. And it's a sad thing for a once-great county that may just be on the other side of its prime. I still think it's not too late to change the county and save it. We just need more people who care enough to get involved.


Anonymous said...

The figures that I am familiar with say that Fayette's growth has drastically reduced in the past year or two. We have generally grown in a much more responsible way than our neighboring counties and we continue to have a wonderful community here.

According to publicly available GBI statistics, our crime rates are still lower than those in Northern Atlanta suburb counties that boast similar stellar school systems (like Cherokee and Forsyth).

The biggest problem we now face is how our leaders react to the bursting housing bubble, high fuel prices and the slowing economy.

We need to adapt and change. We need to draw job centers out of Atlanta and into the county. We need to to promote commuter rail.
We need to continue to draw the young, involved families who have traditionally given us great schools.

We need to invest in our quality of life instead of cutting services until Fayette turns into the scared little retirement community it is well on its way to becoming (take a look at the median age of Fayette residents compared to 10 years ago. This is a BIG issue).

The skyrocketing Fayette housing costs during the middle years of this decade drove young families elsewhere. We must now find ways to bring the families back.

Our school system lost students this year for the first time in at least 3 decades.

Young families are fleeing to more affordable bedroom communities (coweta) or back closer to the job centers in Atlanta (midtown, historical areas of college park)

Perhaps voter turnout was low because candidates didn't verbalize these issues and other important ones like it. It seemed to me that almost all of the candidates for local office pretty much stumped on the same, tired old, republican platform.

Several of the races were little more than personal grudges. For DA we had a disgruntled former employee challenging his ex-boss.

For tax commissioner we had a former county commissioner trying to take the job of a man who helped campaign against her two years ago.

For sheriff we had three insiders infighting and an outsider who was in desperate need of a half-way competent campaign strategist.

We had a whole slew of candidates backed by a disgruntled former commissioner (Harold Bost) and another group backed by the two commissioners not up for election this year (Smith and Maxwell).

The "marquee" issues for the county commission incumbents and challengers was a retirement plan and pay raises for county employees. These are issues that don't exactly excite people and draw them to the polls.

Anyone who followed the local elections even the slightest bit could pretty easily figure out that the county commission races pretty much split into two groups of three candidates battling each other for power and control.

The one decent candidate who seemed independent and open to new ideas was resoundingly defeated (stuart kourajian)--most likely because he wasn't very good at getting his message out. The press was too busy covering the nasty fight between the two political groups.

People don't vote for a wide variety of reasons. I believe election day should be a holiday. Or perhaps the solution is to emulate the state of Oregon, which does not have polls, but instead mails ballots out to each individual registered voter.

However, the quality of the candidates was definitely a factor this time--and it usually is when the turnout is this low.

I voted this time, but I wasn't happy with my options.

Wilbur Swain said...

More people would vote if there was actually a choice. We get old republican white flight veteran number 1 vs. old republican white flight veteran number 2.

Who cares? None of these people have any idea as to how to move us forward. Why waste our time?