Winning by default hurts electoral process

info@islandpacket.comOctober 22, 2013 

Beaufort County saved some money with no special election needed to fill empty seats on County Council and the school board.

But we don't like to see key local offices won by default. That's no reflection on Steve Fobes and Bill Payne, who stepped up to run for Hilton Head Island's District 10 seats on County Council and school board, respectively. We thank them for making a significant community service commitment.

The two positions were left vacant when Steve Baer resigned in July from his County Council seat and Mike Sanz resigned in August from his school board seat.

Both seats will be up for election in 2014, and we hope to see some competition. All elected officials should be held accountable for their job performance, and the best way to do that is through a competitive race for re-election.

State law allows local governments to forgo holding an election if only one person files to run.

The good news is that we've seen an uptick in local election participation in recent years.

Hilton Head is a good example. Between 2005 and 2009, Hilton Head voters cast votes in only one council race, the 2005 mayor's contest. In 2007, none of the three council members up for election had challengers, so no election was held.

But in 2009, a special election saw six candidates competing for a seat on the council. In 2010, seven people ran for mayor; the races for three council seats up for election were all competitive.

This year, Bluffton has seven people running for two council seats up for election and Port Royal has three people running for two seats.

That level of interest, particularly in Bluffton, serves the community well.

Now the rest of us must do our part and get out to vote. Low voter turnout is as detrimental to the democratic process as no competitive races.

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