No excuse for dismal voter turnout Tuesday

info@islandpacket.comNovember 8, 2013 

Off-cycle elections, dissatisfaction with government in general, more rigorous monitoring of voter registration -- all might help explain the pitifully low voter turnout for municipal elections Tuesday in the towns of Bluffton and Port Royal.

But there are no excuses.

Quite likely, votes for homecoming queen at one of our local high schools this football season exceeded the 907 that went to one of seven candidates competing for two seats on Bluffton Town Council.

Sadly, Bluffton's 9.51 percent voter turnout is robust compared to Port Royal's 5.58 percent, which is even worse than it first appears, if you can believe such a thing is possible. Lee Helena Jr. dropped out of the race a week before Election Day, never participated in a candidate forum or interviews with this newspaper's editorial board ... and still received 34 of the 364 votes cast in the non-partisan, at-large election. None of those votes count, by the way.

If there was a bright spot, it was the 76 write-in votes cast in Port Royal, most of them presumably for write-in candidate Lundy Baker. He is the manager of Park Beaufort, co-owner of The Lollipop Shop in Beaufort and, given the number of votes he garnered without appearing on the ballot, Beaufort County's new get-out-the-vote king.

And let's not forget that a section of Hilton Head Island likely was spared the embarrassment suffered Tuesday by Bluffton and Port Royal, but only because it could muster only a single candidate for seats on the Board of Education and County Council. Thus, no elections were held.

Finger-wagging, post-election editorials, such as this, have become clichès, but such indifference demands comment. After all, despite state and national encroachment upon such matters, local contests still greatly influence how our schools are run, how our businesses and homes are zoned, and how the local economy is developed.

The Founding Fathers would be ashamed to know they bestowed republican government and a federalist system upon a mass that treats such important issues so blithely.

Off-cycle elections, dissatisfaction with government, more rigorous monitoring of voter registration might be drags on turnout. However, the real culprit is our acute civic apathy, which brings to mind the observation of essayist H.L. Mencken: "People deserve the government they get, and they deserve to get it good and hard."

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