The virus of voter apathy is everywhere

November 8, 2013 

The election for mayor and council in Warner Robins is a statistician’s dream. First, the turnout was dismal. Only 6,604 voters cared enough to go to the polls. That’s about a 20 percent turnout. Some voters, 245 of them, voted in the mayor’s race and skipped the citywide Post 1 race. If they had taken an extra nanosecond to touch the screen in that race, they might have provided the leading vote-getter, Chuck Shaheen, the 18 votes he needed to avoid a runoff.

In Post 2, Keith Lauritsen outpolled City Council incumbent Paul Shealy by a whopping 24 votes out of 1,854 cast. In Post 4, a special election to fill Mike Brashear’s council seat because Brashear stepped down for an ill-fated run at the mayor’s office (he came in a distant fifth in a six-person race), Tim Thomas avoided a runoff by a single, solitary vote. His two opponents, Ben Campbell and Bob Wilbanks, received 680 votes combined. Thomas got 681. The rule is 50 percent plus 1 vote, and he hit it right on the head. (A recount is scheduled for this morning in that race and the mayor’s race.) Every one of Thomas’ voters can claim he or she provided the winning margin if it holds up.

Clifford Holmes will return to council with the only clear win, beating his two opponents with 62.5 percent of the vote.

With turnout this low, what can Warner Robins residents expect in the Dec. 3 runoff?

Warner Robins is not the only place that showed low turnouts and close margins. In Crawford County, a special purpose local option sales tax passed with a 181-vote margin. However, there were 6,956 registered voters in last year’s election cycle and 5,158 of them voted. This time, 397 folks decided that every taxpayer in the county would pay an extra penny tax.

So what do low turnouts say about us? It proves, yet again, that people appear at the polls when the choice for president is on the ballot and no so much any other time. Maybe we should adjust the terms of local offices to always coincide with presidential election years. That’s what’s going to happen in Bibb County in 2016. Maybe it’s time for other municipalities to follow Bibb’s lead.

The other thing voter turnout says about us is that we are an apathetic lot. We only seem to turnout in droves when we are mad about something.

In reality, for all our bluster, we could not care less about good government. We’re OK, as long as our parade isn’t the one getting rained on.

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