Non-partisan local elections would make things simpler

Published 8:46am Friday, August 3, 2012

In last Wednesday’s edition of The Post-Searchlight, the newspaper took an opinion that all countywide political races should be, and need to be, non-partisan.

After studying the results of Tuesday’s primary, and some of the confusion that accompanied the voting process, the need for the General Assembly to allow each county to declare those offices non-partisan cannot be clearer.

While political party affiliation is part of the game in Washington D.C. and Atlanta, I can’t imagine why a sheriff’s candidate or a coroner candidate would need to file as a Democrat or Republican.

There were 25 different ballots in Decatur County alone for last Tuesday’s primary, based on the different party affiliations and voters’ different districts. When you consider the Democratic candidates, the Republican candidates, and the non-partisan Board of Education candidates in all the different voting districts in the county, then you can see how those combinations could multiply quickly.

And, there’s no real reason it has to be this way. It’s expensive and confusing.

Of the 4,637 ballots cast in Decatur County, 607 voters chose a Republican ballot. Those 607 voters cast votes could have cast votes for the Republican challengers in the United States House District 2 race and the T-SPLOST referendum.

Those same voters did not cast votes in the Decatur County Sheriff’s race or one of the two contested County Commission races, given the district in which those voters live.

In the County Commission District 5 race, an additional 383 votes potentially could have been cast. That’s the number of voters who requested and voted on a Republican ballot in the Kendrick, Recovery, West Bainbridge, and Coliseum precincts.

I don’t know how many of those voters actually live and vote in District 5. But given that incumbent Russell Smith held off challenger Max Bryant by only 18 votes, had that race been non-partisan, the outcome could have been different.

The same can be said in District 3, where challenger Dennis Brinson beat incumbent Dr. Charles Stafford by 135 votes. There were 376 potential votes that did not participate in this race because of voting on a Republican ballot.

There are a lot of assumptions in the hypothetical situations above, but the need remains for a shift to non-partisanship in county races.

Congratulations to those who won last Tuesday and congratulations to the challengers who threw hats into the ring. These races were civil, clean, and above-the-board.

Speaking of the 4,637 ballots cast in Decatur County, those votes only account for 33.25 percent of registered voters. That’s disappointing. The 31.44-percent voter turnout statewide is also disappointing.

Voter apathy is a subject for another time and about triple the newspaper space allocated for this column, but even with such important races like the sheriff and T-SPLOST on the ballot, it’s apparent that voter disinterest is alive and well.

A decision was being made, T-SPLOST, that would have impacted every consumer’s pocketbook for a minimum of 10 years, yet only 31.44 percent of the registered voters in the state were inclined to vote.

Let’s hope that turnout will be higher in November when the presidential election will be the headliner.

Jeff Findley is the publisher of The Post-Searchlight. You can email him at jeff.findley@thepostsearchlight.com.

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