published Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

It’s a new day for County Commission, but too few people voted in primary

Tuesday was a good and bad election day.

On the good side, the Hamilton County Commission will have at least two new faces, and one will replace long-time back-room deal-maker Fred Skillern, who had largely held the school system hostage with his mindset that good money is collected, hoarded and unspent money.

On the bad side, far too few people participated in the vote countywide, and that paucity of voters is perhaps the only thing sadder than the scarcity of viable candidates — Republican, Democrat and Independent.

The vote totals are unofficial, but adding the highest count in both the GOP ballot and the Democrat ballot, it looks like a pathetic 10 percent, or so, of Hamilton County’s 219,708 registered voters cast votes in the 2014 county primary election Tuesday. The total voter turnout figures for 2006 and 2010 were 13.6 percent and 8 percent, respectively. In the 2012 General Election, the opportunity to vote for presidential candidates motivated a 64 percent turnout.

Hamilton County had 31 partisan races up for grabs Tuesday, and 21 were settled by the primary.

In real terms, that means some Hamilton County leaders were elected Tuesday by a few dozen votes.

Randy Fairbanks ousted fellow Republican Skillern by just 51 votes for the District 1 commission seat. Democrat Ezra Maize edged Democrat Don Brown by 35 votes. Maize, who received only 238 votes will face Republican Sabrena Turner [she got 1,966 votes] for the District 7 seat in August. And District 8 incumbent Republican Commissioner Tim Boyd bested his nearest challenger, former commissioner Curtis Adams, by just 209 votes. Boyd faces Democrat Kenny Smith in August.

There also were 15 unopposed races, and all but one featured incumbents who will keep their office.

“I think we are seeing what a lot of people in the country are seeing. That’s voter apathy,” said county Republican Party Chairman Tony Sanders recently when the Election Commission noted late into the early voting period that only 1 percent of registered voters had cast early ballots.

“We can’t have [13] percent of the population determining elections countywide,” he added, pointing to the results of previous non-presidential elections.

He was right then. And in Tuesday’s election, it was even worse.

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