Apathy Increases Voter Value


By Neil Williamson, President

Yes, Virginia this is an election year.

Poor Virginia – Every year somebody is running for something and this year, if historical trends hold true – your vote is even more important. 

While the balance of the country (except New Jersey) is looking towardBallot Box November 2012 for their next election, Virginians must vote on their local representation in the General Assembly, many of their constitutional officers (Commonwealth Attorney, Commissioner of the Revenue, etc.) as well as those who represent them in the County building or City Hall.

2011 is what is known as an “Off-Off” year election.  There are no federal races on the ballot and there is no Gubernatorial race either.  Such elections regularly see low voter turnout.

According to Bill McClintock of GOP Wins [as quoted in Campaigns and Elections Magazine]:

the high point for voter participation is the presidential election cycle, which sees about 73 percent of the state’s voters turn out. Next is the gubernatorial election, when about 49 percent turn out. After that comes the non-presidential federal election (Senate or Congressional seat), which sees about 45% turnout. Finally, there’s a year like 2011 when the state legislature tops the ticket and the turnout plummets to a meager 33 percent. Generalizing across states—or even within states—is difficult because individual factors will obviously impact turnout. But it’s clear that turnout falls dramatically in these years. Emphasis added – nw

From the left leaning leaning My Fire Dog Lake blog discussing the 2009 election “Off” Year election (with a gubernatorial race) turnout:

Political writer Paul Loeb summarizes the voter turnout as follows: “In exit polls, Virginia voters under 30 dropped from 21% of the 2008 electorate to 10% this year, and from 17% to 9% in New Jersey. Minority voting saw a similar decline. In both states, over half the Obama voters of a year ago simply stayed home, more than a million people in both Virginia and New Jersey. With this collapse of the Democratic base, even relatively modest Republican turnout could carry the day, and did.” Emphasis added – nw

But what does that mean for the local races that are on the ballot?

In Fluvanna County, the 2007 Palmyra District Board of Supervisors race was won by John Gooch with 364 votes just 18 vote less than his opponent Minor Eager. In fact, before counting the absentee ballots Gooch led Eager by merely 10 votes.

Albemarle County 2007 Rivanna District’s Board of Supervisor’s election, 4,667 votes were cast and Incumbent Ken Boyd beat challenger Marcia Joseph by 149 votes.

The Free Enterprise Forum anticipates higher than average turnout in Greene County and Louisa County.  Both have contested races for retiring Constitutional Officers (Sheriff in Greene and Treasurer in Louisa).  The last time there was an open Sheriff’s race in Greene (2003) there were 5 candidates and voter turnout was over 47%. 

In addition Greene County has adjusted their Board of Supervisors to four magisterial districts and one at large member (formerly 2).  The new “Ruckersville” District features a four way race.  The last multiple candidate race for a Greene Board of Supervisor the decision was made by less than 100 votes.

Yes Virginia, there is an election in 2011.

This election will select those who serve the government closest to you, your local government.  The candidates who are successful in this campaign will be the ones to determine the vision for the locality as well as the ordinances; they will develop the budgets and set the tax rate.

Yes Virginia will hold an election on November 8th; the question is will you be a part of it? 

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org



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