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August 8, 2014

Opinion: Low voter turnout is “shameful”

By the time polls closed on August 7, Election Day, a meager 8,105 people cast votes in one of the biggest fields since 2006. Add that to the 11,906 people who voted in the early voting period, and just 20,011 people took advantage of their right to voter. 20.8 % of the 99,000+ voters who are actually registered in the county. It was an embarrassment.

I’ve heard the excuses that “I was too busy” or “I coudn’t find the time…”

What? No time to vote even with an early voting period that spanned six days a week for several weeks  — yes, you could even vote on several Saturdays.

That 20% elected a new County Mayor, Jim Durrett, who beat incumbent Carolyn Bowers by a substantial margin. Brenda Radford held her county trustee post by a slimmer but still majority vote over Brandi Whitfield Bryant. For State Senator and judicial incumbent Tim Barnes retain his seat, ousting challenger Merriel Bullock Neal with a significant margin, 64% to 32%. Dan Cramer (D) earned the right to challenge Marsha Blackburn for U.S. Representative. Eighty percent

It was a long multiple page ballot that was both daunting yet simple. Push a button. Plenty of voting booths were available at the Election Commission and at the precincts. It was an important election (but then, they all are).

As I scanned the results, they were few surprises.

I even expected the low number of voters, which didn’t make me feel any better.

In 1971 I voted for the first time, and haven’t missed an election yet. Even when I was recuperating from a back injury in a nursing home, I secured an absentee ballot. I lived in New England then, and managed to vote on the nice fall days and the not so nice ones, when I and thousands of other voters sometimes braved sleet, snow, ice and wind to exercise the privilege of voting in November. We didn’t have early voting then; we had just one day to make our voices heard. I recall covering elections until the wee hours (and sometimes days) because all voting was on paper ballots that had to be counted one by one.

I also took my daughter and my grandchildren with me to vote, teaching them the importance and the value of having those ballots to check. This year I hobbled into the polls with a bad hip and distinct mobility problems, but I still hobbled in. My daughter wasn’t in much better shape but she too walked in, cane and all, to cast her votes.

All I can do is congratulate all the people who ran, congratulate the winners, and congratulate the people who campaigned for the candidates, watched polls to assist voters or check on irregularities, and congratulate those who did exercise their right to vote.

Good, bad or indifferent, the rest of the 77,000 who did not vote deserve what they get. If you don’t like state policies or county government, that’s too bad. You threw away your right to complain and I don’t want to hear any bellyaching from you.

We have the traditional election coming up on November 4 with an early voting season prior to that. I’ll be voting early, then waiting and watching to see what happens. We will likely have a bigger turnout, but to me, anything less than a 75%  minimum will continue to be an embarrassment. I’d like to see a near-100% turnout but then, I dream big. It’s a habit of mine.








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