Low turnout; high hopes

  • Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2013 12:01 a.m.

When you vote, you make your voice heard in the halls of power. When you don’t, you let others decide who wields it.

And when only 11.6 percent of Charleston County’s eligible registered voters cast ballots Tuesday, that was a sad indication that far too few people participate in our area’s local elections.

Maybe some of those non-voters simply find local government so efficient that they feel no need to choose its leaders.

More likely, a lot of them aren’t paying attention, and, in effect, are shirking their civic duty.

But the low percentages of people who did vote in the tri-county did deliver some interesting results.

Take, for example, Charleston City Councilman Dudley Gregorie’s re-election. He admits that he was concerned when his district was radically redrawn during the last redistricting process.

Its boundaries shifted from the upper peninsula to include a substantial portion of James Island. The minority composition of voters went from more than 54 percent to less than 25 percent.

Yet Councilman Gregorie, who is black, handily defeated four challengers — three of them white — with 62 percent of the vote, avoiding an expected runoff.

Linda Page also rolled to an impressive victory against four opponents, getting 57 percent of the vote in the Mount Pleasant mayor’s race to avert a runoff. Her triumph re-confirmed the modern reality that women can win elective office in our community and state — but only if they run.

As for Mr. Gregorie’s strong showing, he won 12 of the district’s 14 precincts, with outright majorities in 10 of them. Meanwhile, challenger Rodney Williams, who is black, defeated incumbent Blake Hallman, who is white, in West Ashley’s District 2, another white majority district.

The 204 voters who cast their ballots for Mr. Williams certainly made their voices heard. About 10,000 people live in the district.

The small Charleston County town of Lincolnville had a relatively high turnout at 29.2 percent. Those voters also unintentionally drove home an important point: One, two or three votes can make a big difference in an election. And not just in Florida.

In Lincolnville’s mayoral race, unofficial results showed Charles Duberry defeating Tyrone E. Aiken by only four votes — 87-83. If three more supporters of Mr. Aiken had voted, and two Mr. Duberry’s supporters had stayed home, things would look much different. It’s a message that non-voters across the Lowcountry should consider.

Twenty-eight voters in North Charleston Precinct 1 had a chance to vote for either Robert Mitchell or Liz Fulton for Charleston City Council. But none did.

In precincts where the only race was the Charleston Water Commission, the turnout was quite low. None of Cainhoy’s 121 voters showed up. Fewer than 1 percent voted from Daniel Island precincts 1, 2, 3 or 4.

Ironically, one issue that often faces water commissions is whether to promote suburban sprawl into rural areas by extending water and sewer service. It’s a topic that Cainhoy and Daniel Island residents might eventually find pertinent to them.

In Dorchester County, the hotly debated referendum to approve a sales tax increase was soundly defeated, but not by a majority of registered voters.

It’s easy to come up with excuses not to vote: working early, working late, oversleeping, disinterest, Daylight Savings Time, lethargy, low on gas, no photo ID, a headache or a sore throat.

But the more that citizens take an interest in local government, spend time learning about issues and candidates, and then cast informed votes, the better it is for the community.

And the more accountability there will be from those who serve in public office.

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