Lack of turnout ‘discouraging’

Published 3:00 am Thursday, November 6, 2014

That’s a word politicos and election officials used to describe voter turnout in Tuesday’s general election.
Only 47 percent of Pike County’s 19,498 active registered voters cast a ballot in the election. Moreover, with 9,206 ballots cast this year voter turnout was almost 6 percent lower than 2010, when 9,785 votes were cast.
That turnout was surprising for some involved in local politics, particularly because of several key contested races, including Pike County sheriff, revenue commissioner and state representative.
“I had someone ask me if I was disappointed in voter turnout and what I thought we could do to increase voter participation,” said Wes Allen, Pike County Probate Judge. “I explained that as chief election officer for Pike County, it’s my role to get everything ready to go … to make sure we’re transparent and prepared,” he said. “The responsibility for turning people out to vote is the candidates’ job. That’s really up to the campaigns.”
At least one party leader shared discouragement in the local turnout.
“I thought our turnout might be higher,” said Ginny Hamm, chairman of the Pike County Republican Committee. “I was a poll worker in the 2010 election, and we had a steady stream of voters throughout the day. I thought the polls would be packed this time … And while 500 fewer votes is not that many, the overall percentage of voters still represents a disappointing trend in voter apathy.”
Hamm, who admits she would like to see 100 percent voter turnout, believes that education is the key to improving participation. “We’ve got to educate our children on the importance of voting,” she said. “It’s a right to be protected … and we (as a society) consider it with a very cavalier attitude.”
Dejerilyn King Henderson, a Troy city council woman and active member of the local NAACP chapter, said she had worked for weeks to educate voters and encourage participation in the election.
“We had a nice turnout, but it wasn’t what it was supposed to be,” she said Tuesday night. “I think a lot of people stayed about because of education.”
Henderson said many citizens, particularly minorities, do not understand the process of voting or the importance of casting a vote. “If you don’t vote, then you give up your right to have a say in garbage collection, or taxes, or education or health care, she said.” “And some people just don’t understand that.”
Henderson said many residents fail to understand the need to register to vote prior to the election and the need to have proper identification when they come to the polls. “We still had people showing up to the polls who weren’t registered to vote,” she said.
Moreover, Henderson said efforts to educate the public about the voting process and then about the issues and candidates is challenge. “There’s a certain segment of our population who refuse to be educated about the process,” she said. “And that’s disappointing.”

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