An inescapable conclusion from voter turnout in primary elections
by Don McKee
May 22, 2014 01:10 AM | 1147 views | 6 6 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There’s one inescapable conclusion from Tuesday’s elections: the overwhelming majority of voters don’t care who represents them in local and state offices and in Congress.

Example: In the District 3 Cobb Commission race, incumbent JoAnn Birrell won re-election with 8,477 votes, which is 7.96 percent of the 106,390 active registered voters, according to the county elections office. The voters may be registered but most are not active. Totaling the votes for Birrell and her two opponents, the turnout was 13,534, or 12.7 percent of the registered voters.

The story was the same in other races. In the District 1 commission race, former Chairman Bill Byrne came in first with 4,295 votes and faces a runoff against former Acworth alderman Bob Weatherford, second with 3,692 votes. Three other candidates were eliminated. Even in a contest that was supposed to be of high interest to voters in west Cobb, turnout was dismal, with the runoff candidates being decided by 14.7 percent of the 102,730 active registered voters, per my calculator.

Byrne remarked on the low turnout including races for the U.S. Senate and governor of Georgia, rather important offices. He said, “I can’t figure that out. I don’t understand it.”

I think I have figured it out. The low turnout is an echo of SPLOST votes, decided by a relative handful of voters in special elections. The primary elections were moved up from the more traditional later dates, which did not help. But the date is not the problem here. Lack of interest is what depresses voter turnout. Boil it down and about 85 percent of the registered voters in Cobb County just don’t care who represents them in elected offices — except maybe when there’s a presidential election.

This is not about bemoaning lack of voter interest. There’s more to it. These elections cost taxpayers a bundle for a few voters to avail themselves of the privilege of voting. It’s not worth the cost, in the view of Libertarian Party of Georgia chairman Doug Craig who made the point in an Election Day news release. He said, “These nominating elections are held for Democrat and Republican parties only at a cost of millions of tax dollars and a greater cost for runoff elections.”

But, Craig said, the Libertarian Party, along with other political parties and independent candidates, “are locked out of the political process due to some of the most restrictive ballot access laws in the nation.” Georgia requires third parties and independent candidates to collect signatures from five percent of registered voters to get on the ballot. That requires more effort than running a campaign, according to the Libertarians, who despite the barriers, have fielded candidates for U.S. Senate, governor and a Public Service Commission seat in the November elections.

“Perhaps a better alternative to nominations would be to require the major parties to nominate by convention as the LP is required to do at no cost to taxpayers,” Craig said. Now that’s food for thought.

dmckee9613@aol.com
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Diamond Jim
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May 24, 2014
Don, I wish I could disagree with any part of this commentary, but sadly cannot. It's shameful.

Radio talk show hosts like to talk about "low information voters" and how gullible they are because they are not informed. What we have here apparently are NO information voters. They don't know anything about the candidates, don't care, and don't vote! These are the same folk who, a few months after the general election, will be squealing like a pig under a gate about what incompetent scoundrels these office holders are.

So why didn't they show up at the polls and help keep them from getting elected? Those who don't vote and otherwise participate in the election process, allow small, self-serving special interest groups who, although a small fraction of the eligible electorate, mobilize their members and get them to the polls to elect

candidates favorable to their causes.

A great example, as you pointed out: SPLOST elections determined by the slimmest of margins, even though polling showed a majority of Cobb Countians opposed them. I recall a school SPLOST where teachers and other school employees were given the afternoon off to be sure they could get to the polls and vote increased taxes for their personal benefit. And where were the majority who said they opposed it? Sitting on the sidelines complaining!! If you don't vote, you have no grounds for complaint.
Kick em
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May 22, 2014
I have talked with my friends who did not vote Tuesday and most said it does NO good, because even the candidates who have never served in office will become just as deaf and crooked as the ones already in office. Once the winner is decided, it is all about them and their next election. We need new campaign finance rules (do away with PACS) and possibly term limits.

Georgia is one of the few states that requires a Runoff when no candidate receives more than 50%. Do away with the runoffs. Have an election and whomever gets the most votes is the winner. We have made it more convenient to vote with early voting, so the poor turnout is more than convenience.
Mike Woodliff
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May 22, 2014
I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it's sad that few citizens have the interest and motivation to vote. On the other hand, I'm somewhat relieved that most who neglect to vote are uninformed and disinterested.

My family raised me to believe it was my duty and responsibility to understand issues and people and to cast my vote accordingly. Most of my friends and acquaintances were raised similarly.

Lack of interest and motivation may be cultural or generational. I wonder if time will reverse the current trend. I certainly hope so.
disgraceful turnout
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May 22, 2014
It is obvious that we are doomed as a country. We are a nation grown too lazy to take care of ourselves, as long as the government will do it, and are even too disinterested to bother to vote once every few years. I was shocked and disappointed because i feel it is an indicator of what our future holds. We, until recently, were the greatest and strongest country in the world. Now, we appear to be populated by a bunch of lay-abouts who care more about handouts and whether pot is going to be legal, than their nation.
on balance
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May 22, 2014
Amen!!
getoutandvote
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May 22, 2014
I agree. It blows my mind at how few people actually take the time to vote. I never miss a primary, run off, general election, special election...

I used to always take my children with me to vote. They knew to be quiet and were always well behaved. I wanted them to know the importance of voting. They are now in their 20's and rarely miss an election. Their vote usually cancels out mine but that's not the point. I'm proud of them for knowing it's a right to vote AND their responsibility to get out and vote.

Makes my skin crawl with libs think it's Conservatives who think it's important to show a photo ID. Such a load of bunk. Or they think the Conservatives are trying everything they can to keep away the poor who can't get themselves to a polling place. You can vote absentee or early voting. So many opportunities. I also love when a SPLOST vote is advertised to death and when it passes, the lazy people who didn't get out to cast their vote, scream that it was 'snuck through.'

Get out and vote, people.
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