Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Apathy Times Ten...

10.33% of those registered made the minimal effort to cast their vote in the run-off election. That's 10.33% of those in the county who are registered to vote (roughly 68,000), not 10.33% of the total population.

Since there were two candidates in each of the local races, that means that somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 people decided who won (5857 total votes in the Commission race, a little over half of that number voted for the winner).

In the primary election we have a bit over a quarter of the eligible voters show up. Divide that number in half (real broadly) and you have the number of voters who decided the future of the county.

Doesn't matter whether we had good candidates, bad candidates, good issues, bad issues, Republicans, Democrats... no excuses.

Everywhere I go these days I hear "voter apathy". I have made it a point to talk to as many people as I possibly could over the past weeks about their voting (or lack thereof).

People truly just don't seem to care. They don't seem to think their vote is important. They don't know the issues. They can't tell me who their County Commissioners are. They don't know the difference between the County Commission and the City Council. They don't understand the difference between the Fayetteville or Peachtree City police and the Sheriff. As much as various issues have been highlighted in the papers, they aren't aware (most say they don't even open the free papers tossed on their driveways!).

Do I sound frustrated? I am.

I know my favorite commenter is going to have an opinion (thank you, I do appreciate our "discussions" & understand the need for anonymity). I respectfully disagree with him (I assume ;-) on there not being much of a difference between the candidates. I do think the Defined Benefits and the employee raises were important. They are going to cost us bunches down the road. Of course, the guys (and they are all guys ;-) who're in office voting for these things won't be in office when the bill comes due. Someone down the road is going to have to make some tough, tough decisions regarding taxes at some point and they, not the ones in office now, will be the ones who are blamed.

I think there were some strong character differences between the candidates. But then again, I go to the meetings, I see the decisions and actions. I know all of the candidates who ran. I don't expect everyone to follow my lead and go to the meetings or be this involved. It's just impossible for most. But there is enough information out there for those who truly care. Everyone could attend a forum (there were tons of them). They could have visited websites, watched the videos on-line, read the answers in the papers (although I know for a fact that many of the candidates didn't write their own answers so that's not really a good indicator), etc.

I think we've crossed a line in these past few years that will completely change the direction the county goes. I think there will be a point were we look back on this broad time period and realize that this was the turning point.

One more point that I probably should find a place to stick above but won't ... I've been around long enough to see many elections in the county. We've had candidates in the past who were almost like clones, with no major issues, and had higher voter turnout than we've had in recent years.

I think it's a sad statement when so few people can dictate the direction a county of 112,000* goes.

*not sure of the number, just know I've heard that tossed out as where we are... we're over 100,000

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

10.33% is pretty low...
But not unexpected or unprecedented.

I voted. And I got the honor of voting for the winner in both of the local races. (on the 15th I voted for Kourajian and Kiser, so it was nice to pick some winners this time)

Here's something interesting:
Take a look at the summary of votes cast from last month's primary available here:

There's some revealing data in that document.

The highest turnout was in the southernmost precincts, where folks from Brooks and Woolsey came out to the polls at a rate of over 30 percent. These voters overwhelmingly supported Lee Hearn.

North Fayette precincts also showed a higher turnout, with precincts like Kenwood and Banks showing better than 25 percent. Hearn also did well in North Fayette.

The worst turnout on the 15th was in the two main cities. Fayetteville turnout was generally in the upper teens but Peachtree City had the lowest figures countywide.
Kedron and Rising Star both recorded a turnout of under 15 percent. PTC's biggest precinct, Fielding Ridge, had a turnout of just 16 percent.

It is also noteworthy that Pfeifer did well in PTC. He is, after all, from there. He likely could have won without a runoff if he had gotten those PTC voters to turn out at the polls in higher numbers.

This highly un-scientific approach to the numbers seems to validate what I have been saying. Folks were not impressed with the Republican bickering and infighting. People weren't amused by the return of Linda Wells and Greg Dunn. People in Peachtree City didn't really care who would serve as their county sheriff--as long is was one of four similarly-minded Republicans.

In the southern and northern precincts, voters were more concerned about the countywide races--perhaps because county governments mean more to the daily lives of those in unincorporated areas. Or, perhaps Hearn just did a good job of campaigning in the south and north, because not only did those areas vote for him; they also voted in greater numbers.

Perhaps your column shouldn't have been so Chicken Little-esque. Turnout was high for the presidential preference primary and it will be high in Fayette County again come November. Compelling candidates bring people to the polls. A better title might be "I'm frustrated because my candidates didn't win and most people didn't even take the time to vote."
Not voting might be apathy, but it might also be a boycott.

As far as throwing away the free paper that shows up in the driveway... what else am I supposed to do with "The Citizen." I'll keep my "Fayette Daily News" around long enough to use it when I change the oil in my car, but I don't want "The Citizen" anywhere near my house or children.

Also, I think the county population was 106,000 in 2006 and I wouldn't be surprised if we've lost a few thousand since then.