The polls were open, but not a single vote was cast

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"Vote!" by hjl is licensed under CC BY

The Gist: You may have missed it, but there was a special election Tuesday affecting three counties right on the border of Florida. The race was for state house district 175, and (spoiler alert) republican John LaHood won in a landslide. LaHood received 2,337 votes. His closest opponent received 778 votes, so this was the definition of a low-voter turnout race. According to The Valdosta Daily Times, turnout was so low that in one precinct no votes were cast.

Thomas County: In one precinct in Thomas County, poll workers showed up and twiddled their thumbs for 12 hours waiting for someone — anyone to exercise their civic duty and cast a ballot for the person who would be representing them in statewide politics. Not one person showed up. An entire voting precinct decided to just let the other precincts decide for them. In essence, they yielded their right to vote. Countywide, out of 9,556 registered voters only 678 voted. That’s about a 7 percent voter turnout. By comparison, in the 2016 presidential election, voter turnout in Thomas County was 76.5 percent. This isn’t a county that is apathetic and chronically doesn’t vote.

Why It Matters: This isn’t a new trend, but it is a disturbing one. Local lawmakers are the ones who make decisions that most directly impact the lives of voters in their districts. The president isn’t passing laws specific to Thomas County or to any one county in Georgia. But local legislators are the ones who most immediately decide state laws, funding, programs and policies. Georgia is a red state, which means the majority of voters in Georgia favor small government and would prefer the states have more of a stake in how they are governed. However, as Thomas County illustrates, red state voters don’t vote as though local government is important. This is the game if you believe in small government and local control. This is the type of election that matters.

But Does It Really Matter: LaHood won with more than 70 percent of the vote, so the fact that one precinct stayed home wouldn’t have swayed this election. But local governance and local issues are important and do matter and since voters don’t get to vote on every law that is passed, they should be willing to vote for the person who will be representing them in those decisions.

Burning Questions: Low voter turnout is a problem. No voter turnout is concerning and raises a few questions:

  • Do we need to do a wellness check on the people in this district? Has anyone seen or heard from them in the last few weeks?
  • Has the flu epidemic hit Thomas County so hard that it wiped out an entire precinct of voters?
  • Has the Rapture come and this was the only wholesome group of people in the world?
  • Did they all just hop over the state line for a bit to go on vacation at the same time?