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Turnout at polls could set new low

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More than ever before, the outcome of today's elections will depend on which candidates get their people to the polls.

The city might even set a new low. Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey predicts voter turnout of 10 percent to 15 percent, which would be the lowest for any commission election since city-county consolidation in 1996.

Odd-numbered commission seats are up this year, with contested elections in Districts 1, 3 and 5. There's also a special election in District 5 to replace Richmond County Board of Education trustee Joe Scott, who died in July.

Last month, Mrs. Bailey predicted turnout of about 20 percent, a forecast based on past November commission elections without national, state or mayoral races on the ballot. But participation in early voting was so low in recent weeks, and requests for absentee ballots so few, that she adjusted that.

Mrs. Bailey attributes this year's lack of interest to post-presidential election doldrums. Turnout for the June sales tax referendum was only 8.71 percent; she had predicted 10 to 12 percent.

"I think it's sometimes hard to get people back out to the polls and get them energized," she said.

During early and advance voting in October, 1,367 of the 41,892 eligible voters in Districts 1, 3 and 5 -- 3.3 percent -- participated. Before the June SPLOST election, 2,230 of the 111,805 eligible voters citywide -- 2 percent -- took part in early and advance voting.

Because last month's percentage was slightly better than the numbers in May and June, Mrs. Bailey predicts that today's turnout will be a tad better than it was for the SPLOST election.

Since consolidation, the lowest turnout on record for a commission election was 16 percent in 1999, when even-numbered commission seats were up. The highest was 41 percent in 2005, when odd-numbered seats were up along with a special election to replace Mayor Bob Young, who had resigned to take a job with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. An ensuing runoff between Deke Copenhaver and Willie Mays had even higher turnout, with 45 percent.

The lowest turnout Mrs. Bailey has found for any Augusta election, dating back to 1973, was 3.19 percent for a citywide Democratic primary runoff in August 1988.

In years to come, participation percentages will seem lower because so many new people registered last year for the presidential election. Between March and November 2008, the number of eligible voters in Augusta grew from 90,242 to 106,615.

"Even laying that aside, this is still a low turnout for this type of election," Mrs. Bailey said.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com

TIME TO VOTE

WHEN: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today

THE RACES: The offices that are up for election and that have opposed races on the ballot are Augusta Commission Districts 1, 3 and 5; Board of Education District 5; three members of the Hephzibah City Commission; and mayor and two council members for the city of Blythe.

WHERE TO VOTE: Only districts that have contested races will have open polling places. If there is no opposition and no one has qualified as a write-in candidate, then the candidate is deemed to have voted for himself or herself and the polling places will not be open.

TURNOUTS PAST

Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey predicts turnout of 10 percent to 15 percent for today's commission and school board elections, which would be the lowest for any commission election since city-county consolidation in 1996.

18.6% :

1997: Odd-numbered seats, with contested elections in Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7

16%

1999: Even-numbered seats, with contested elections in Districts 2, 4, 6 and 10

22.8%

2001: Odd-numbered seats, with contested elections in Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 and the first election of a civil court marshal

21%

2003: Even-numbered seats, with contested elections in Districts 2, 6, 8 and 10

41%

2005: Odd-numbered seats, with contested elections in districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 and a special election to replace former Mayor Bob Young

19.8%

2007: Even-numbered seats, with contested elections in Districts 2, 4, 6 and 10

Source: Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey

Comments (10) Add comment
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Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 11/03/09 - 02:38 am
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Vote for Change ... Vote for

Vote for Change ... Vote for Butch! www.butchforaugusta.org

Riverman1
87034
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Riverman1 11/03/09 - 05:45 am
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We are all paying attention

We are all paying attention to who supports the white and black machines' candidates. It's time to buck up and start to change Augusta. Deke, Boardman and the boys want Aitken, Robert Cooks and CH2M Hill water consultants want Fennoy. Whose left? Butch Palmer, who wants to rid the town of crooks of all types and colors.

harrisburgwillrise
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harrisburgwillrise 11/03/09 - 06:33 am
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Agreed..... Vote for change

Agreed..... Vote for change in Augusta. Butch is the only candidate that will shake up the status quo.

Crazy Irish
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Crazy Irish 11/03/09 - 07:17 am
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I can't vote because I'm not

I can't vote because I'm not in the district but I'd vote for Butch. He's the best choice.

stovall st
0
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stovall st 11/03/09 - 08:11 am
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I would vote for butch

I would vote for butch palmer, If i lived in that district. Good luck butch.

justus4
107
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justus4 11/03/09 - 08:21 am
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Afghans are dying to get a
Unpublished

Afghans are dying to get a chance to vote and look at the country with citizens that will not even take the time to vote. Speculated to be less than fifteen percent, which translate to "who cares," great coutry, eh?

hoppy
13
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hoppy 11/03/09 - 10:08 am
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If I could vote today I

If I could vote today I would. It's a right and priviledge to be taken advantage of. There's nothing worse than hearing people complain and knowing that they had the opportunity to visit the poll and put in their ballot. I won't be voting because I moved and didn't change my registration in time.

APiratesLife4Me
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APiratesLife4Me 11/03/09 - 10:43 am
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The reason for the low turn

The reason for the low turn out is NOBODY CARES ANYMORE. You have had these morons and clowns on Greene street for so long that nothing has been accomplished. If you are not black, they vote againsnt you, if you are white, you are not right and so forth. Understand this.............NOBODY CARES ANYMORE !! Ya'll have your little party down there and govern yourselves.... people are tired of you. GO HOME. Augusta clowns, look at the voter turnout. Surely you learned to count before you dropped out of school. Wait, this is the Augusta Commision, maybe you didn't.

Dixieman
15999
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Dixieman 11/03/09 - 11:35 am
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I want to vote (a) to kick

I want to vote (a) to kick everyone currently on the Commission off of it, and (b) to de-consolidate Augusta and Richmond County. Is there a space on the ballot to vote for these things?

MakeADifference
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MakeADifference 11/03/09 - 12:37 pm
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Augusta, this is one of your

Augusta, this is one of your chances to stop complaining and make your voice heard by VOTING! Even if you don't like or support any of the candidates in particular, read a little and go pick the one who supports your views the most. Everyone wants to complain, but the people who do not exercise their rights to actually MAKE A DIFFERENCE do not have the right to complain. Actions speak louder than words. If your candidate loses, at least you know you tried and DID something! PLEASE, Augusta, get out and vote. Make an effort.

I support Matt Aitken, and cannot vote because I just moved, but at least I'm supporting something that I believe in and DOING something about it!

If you are voting in District 1, please consider Matt Aitken. If not, please educate yourself on a candidate and vote for that candidate.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 11/04/09 - 12:14 am
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No one votes, yet everyone

No one votes, yet everyone complains. And then those same people wonder why nothing ever gets done.

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