The population of Warner Robins is about 75,000, and on Dec. 5, it could be that fewer than 5,000 voters decide an election for an at-large City Council post.
Just 17 percent of registered voters turned out for the Nov. 7 general election, which featured a hotly contested three-way mayoral race and two City Council contests. The city has 39,126 registered voters, and only 6,797 people voted in the general election.
With the mayor’s race and one council seat decided, that leaves only the Post 1 council runoff between Eric Langston and Daron Lee. Traditionally, turnout for a runoff is significantly less than the general election, especially with fewer races to draw voters, so the runoff turnout could be in the single digits.
“People are predicting 50 percent of what the general election was,” Lee said. “I’m hoping it will be more than that. Hopefully we can get some of those who didn’t vote in the general election to come out for the runoff.”
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Langston said he believes that 2,000 or fewer voters could decide the runoff. He was the top vote-getter in the general election, and he said many people he has encountered have congratulated him on winning the race. He has to explain to them that there is still a runoff coming to decide the outcome.
He said he has been trying to stress the significance of local politics to voters to get them interested in the race.
“A local election is the most important because a decision made today will impact you directly tomorrow,” he said.
The two candidates both said they are relying heavily on canvassing to get voters back to the polls.
Michelle Riley, the city’s election superintendent, said she didn’t have a prediction on what the turnout might be.
Of six Middle Georgia cities that had contested mayoral and council races on Nov. 7, Warner Robins had the second lowest turnout. Gordon’s election drew 62 percent of its registered voters, Roberta had 51 percent, while Gray and Milledgeville drew about 25 percent. Fort Valley had the lowest at 14 percent.
Brooke Miller, an associate professor of political science at Middle Georgia State University, lives in Bonaire and has been following the Warner Robins election closely. She said local elections typically draw lower turnout when there isn’t a national election to drive more people to the polls.
That’s perplexing to her because she believes local politics has a greater direct impact on people.
“It amazes me that people don’t know how much state and local government impacts their daily lives,” she said. “The tax plan in Washington is important, but this is just as important.”
April Bragg, president of the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce, said she hopes Warner Robins voters will take note of the Milledgeville election. The mayoral race there was decided by just five votes.
“Every vote does count,” she said.
Early voting in the runoff begins Nov. 27 and ends Dec. 1. Early voting will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day at the precouncil chambers at City Hall.
People can vote in the runoff even if they didn’t vote in the general election, but they must have been registered to vote in the general election.