Many politicians seeking office this year have skipped voting, analysis shows

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They want your vote, but most area politicians seeking office this year skipped voting in elections several times over the past 10 years, and a handful cast ballots in fewer than half the opportunities they had.

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The Augusta Chronicle analyzed voting records of all the candidates who qualified for office this year, comparing the number of times they voted since 2002 with the number of opportunities they had, based on their address at the time.

Three Augusta-area legislators, two Augusta Circuit Superior Court judges and a Superior Court judge hopeful were among the 41 politicians analyzed, with (in order) Jesse Stone, Barbara Sims, Lee Anderson, Michael Annis, Danny Craig and Willie Saunders coming in at 100 percent.

“I can’t imagine not voting in an election,” said Craig, a Superior Court judge and former district attorney who the records showed voted in all his 34 opportunities. “Unquestionably the highest duty a citizen owes is to participate in the election process, and the second-highest duty is to be willing to serve on a jury.”

Among those who didn’t participate fully in the election process were the five men seeking to replace retiring Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength, a couple of whom had some of the lowest voting percentages in the analysis.

Democratic candidate and longtime Deputy John Ivey had the highest rate among the sheriff’s candidates, voting in 82 percent of 33 elections for which he was eligible. Freddie Sanders, a lawyer and former sheriff’s deputy who also served as Richmond County police chief from 1983 to 1985, followed, voting in 64 percent of 28 elections.

Next in line were sheriff’s Lt. Robbie Silas, who cast a ballot in 16 of 28 elections, a 57 percent clip, and Capt. Scott Peebles, who voted in 14 of 25 elections, or 56 percent.

“In law enforcement, especially what I was doing, it’s hit or miss,” Peebles said. “I know there were times when I intended to vote, but I didn’t because of something that happened, or I wasn’t educated enough about the race.”

Voting the least were the other two sheriff’s candidates: Richmond County Board of Education Police Chief Richard Roundtree and Michael Godowns, a former road patrol deputy for the sheriff’s office.

Roundtree voted seven times in 18 opportunities, or 39 percent of the time, since registering to vote in Richmond County six years ago, while Godowns has voted only twice in 15 chances since registering to vote in 2006, or 13 percent.

Roundtree offered little explanation for his low participation but said he lived in Columbia County before 2006. Records showed he registered to vote there in 2006 but never voted.

Like Peebles, Godowns said his work as a road patrol officer got in the way. “The hours that I worked, a lot of times it was not feasible that I did that,” he said.

Strength, who voted 73 percent of the time over the past 10 years, was unsympathetic to the law officers’ excuses.

“That’s why they have early voting; that’s why they have absentee ballots,” he said. “The system makes every effort to make sure that people can vote.”

‘It’s serious business’

Voting is the minimal level of political participation that voters should expect from a candidate, said University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock. If a candidate hasn’t voted, “it suggests that in the past you didn’t pay that much attention politically, or that you just didn’t care,” Bullock said.

A lack of previous participation creates suspicion about a candidate’s sudden interest in politics and knowledge of the issues, he said.

Sims, who voted in all 34 chances she had, said she doesn’t take voting for granted.

“I don’t think I have the right to make any kind of judgment on anything unless I take the time and effort to study things and make sure I do what is right,” she said. “The older I get, the more important I realize how every person’s vote is important. It’s serious business with me.”

Stone, a state senator from Waynes­boro who also had a 100 percent voting percentage in 25 chances, said his family attempts to cast ballots at every opportunity.

“It’s not something I see as an inconvenience. It’s my duty, and I want to participate in the elections process,” he said.

Superior Court judges had some of the higher voting percentages. Chief Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet voted in 32 of 35 chances, or 91 percent. Superior Court Judge Carl C. Brown voted in 28 of 33 chances, or 85 percent.

“Heavy prices have been paid for the right to vote, and our voice should be heard in the process so that we can determine our future and preserve what’s been entrusted to us,” Brown said.

The judge skipped 2005’s special election for the Senate District 22 seat and the general election for Augusta mayor, runoffs in 2004 and 2010, and the March referendums on Sunday alcohol sales and new education sales tax.

Trailing in participation among her peers was Superior Court Judge Sheryl Jolly, who cast a ballot in 53 percent of 30 elections. She did not return a phone call requesting comment.

Other records

Among other Augusta legislators, Democratic state Rep. Earnest Smith voted in 88 percent of 32 elections, and Democratic Reps. Quincy Murphy and Wayne Howard each voted in 85 percent of 33 election opportunities they had.

Slightly less frequent at the polls were Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, at 24 of 31 elections, or 77 percent, and Rep. Gloria Frazier, D-Augusta, voting in 26 of 32 opportunities, or 81 percent.

David Hopper, a 27-year-old college student seeking Smith’s legislative seat, cited work and lack of transportation as one of the reasons he voted in only 12 of 29 elections, or 41 percent, since registering in late 2002.

Hopper said he probably didn’t vote while attending North Georgia College in Dahlonega for two years without a car, or while working as a long-haul truck driver for three years.

One of the wider gaps in voting participation is between the two candidates for probate judge. Candidate Carleton Vaughn voted on 30 of 33 opportunities, or 91 percent, and Harry James voted in 17 of 31 chances, or 55 percent of the time.

James said despite speaking at voter registration rallies on a number of occasions, he sometimes skipped elections when he was certain of their outcome.

“If I feel very strongly that it’s a done deal, I might not get there,” James said.

100 PERCENT VOTING

Six of the 42 incumbents and candidates who qualified for office in Georgia this year never missed voting in an election in the past 10 years: Superior Court Judges Michael Annis and Danny Craig; Superior Court Judge candidate Willie Saunders; state Rep. Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown; state Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro; and state Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta.

Comments (13)

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JohnBrownAug
1962
Points
JohnBrownAug 06/09/12 - 09:41 pm
4
6

Acording to THIS article, the

Acording to THIS article, the only serious candidates are Freddie Sanders, John Ivey and Robbie Silas. Interesting.

rational thought trumps emotion
2323
Points
rational thought trumps emotion 06/09/12 - 09:53 pm
8
0

JBA

If they were running to make policy, I would agree with you but Sheriff's don't make laws which is another reason it should be non-partisan. If I am reading the article correctly, Richard Roundtree never voted in any election until 2008 and yet he has blasted Silas and Peebles about their voting records which are 1% different but far better than his. Never voted until 2008 and lived in Columbia County, are both of these statements really correct because he is not the BOE police chief as the article states?

JohnBrownAug
1962
Points
JohnBrownAug 06/09/12 - 10:02 pm
4
4

Rational, I missed what you mean

I didn't see where Roundtree had blasted Silas. But again, the only ones who were the top three voting with any consistency were Silas, Sanders and Ivey. Peebles was right behind them. Did he vote as a Democrat? Who did he vote for in the presidential election since he went up there to help at Obama's inauguration and BRAGGED about it?

rational thought trumps emotion
2323
Points
rational thought trumps emotion 06/09/12 - 11:21 pm
5
3

JBA

Roundtree has talked negatively about Silas and Peebles not being true democrats which I now find funny since he never voted in his life till he was almost 40 years old if this article is correct. Silas and Peebles voting records are 1% apart not that it should matter anyway. I don't know how they voted and don't see how anyone could know other than which party they voted in the primary which doesn't mean much. If I had been able to attend the Obama inauguration I would be proud of it as well. I find it telling how Roundtree tried to imply he voted in Columbia County when he lived there but never voted anywhere until 2008 if this article is correct.

double_standard
166
Points
double_standard 06/09/12 - 11:56 pm
2
3

Peebles is not a democrat he

Peebles is not a democrat he knew that the only way to win the sheriff's race would be to run on the democratic ticket in a presidential election year. To those of you that criticized Roundtree for not voting in Columbia county if must have forgot that most races are won their in the republican primary. Why vote for an unopposed candidate?

JohnBrownAug
1962
Points
JohnBrownAug 06/10/12 - 06:22 am
5
2

Over the entire state

Over the entire state conservative politicians have switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. These days there's no excuse for anyone staying in the Democratic Party. Locally, the reason some give is it's expediency simply to be elected. That in itself is disingenuous.

Don't talk to me about any kind of conservative principles, government and leadership if you still claim to be a Democrat. Trying to weasle out of your party affiliation saying you only register as a Democrat so you can be elected is frankly disgusting. Run as a candidate and vote for the principles and party you believe in.

madgerman
236
Points
madgerman 06/10/12 - 07:24 am
0
0

Perhaps if we voted on

Unpublished

Perhaps if we voted on weekends, instead of during the work week, more people would be available to vote. And the argument that people are supposed to be released from work to vote won't work if you don't live close to where you actually have to vote. Maybe we need to look at how voting is accomplished in Europe if we want everyone to vote. But, if everyone actually voted, the politicians may not like the results. I have always wanted a block the says "None of the above" and it would mean that I didn't like any candidate, especially politically powerful unopposed candidates, and that that position should be filled by the mayor or Governor for a one year term. That would stop the excuse that a voter didn't like any of the candidates or that they didn't have time to go to vote.

KSL
106062
Points
KSL 06/10/12 - 07:31 am
3
0

The way you vote is private

The way you vote is private information but whether you vote or not is not?

Little Lamb
40206
Points
Little Lamb 06/10/12 - 08:10 am
5
2

Duty?

Superior Court Justice Danny Craig said:

“Unquestionably the highest duty a citizen owes is to participate in the election process, and the second-highest duty is to be willing to serve on a jury.”

I'm sorry, but it sounds like Judge Craig is a bit too full of himself and the importance of his profession. He needs to pick up a dictionary and look up the word duty. There is absolutely no duty to vote. Voting is a privilege, not a duty.

There are millions of Americans I wish would not vote because they have no clue about the liberty this country was founded upon. Millions of voters vote to trample individual liberty in favor of the entitlement mindset.

Little Lamb
40206
Points
Little Lamb 06/10/12 - 08:27 am
4
0

Records

Yes, KSL, the Board of Elections keeps records (and they are public records) of who voted (and conversely who did not) in each election. If it is a party primary election they note which party primary you voted in. They keep records of which precinct you voted in. They keep records of whether you voted in person or by absentee (by the way, early voting and advance voting are counted as absentee, even though you show up in person).

That brings back the curious set of facts provided by the Board of Elections regarding Wright McLeod. He voted in the presidential preference primary (aka Super Tuesday) and voted a Democrat ballot. When asked about it by a Morris News Service employee, McLeod said he wanted to vote against Obama, and he told the reporter that he voted for Bill Richardson.

Facts, however, are stubborn things. Board of Elections Director Lynn Bailey looked in the records and noted that there were exactly zero votes for Richardson in McLeod's precinct. When Austin Rhodes suggested that McLeod might have voted an absentee ballot, a sharp Chronicle commenter posted a link to a Board of Elections list that shows McLeod did not vote absentee, but instead voted in person at his precinct.

There was no reason for McLeod to lie about voting, but lying comes easy to some people.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Here is a link to the story:

Democratic Voting Questioned

There are some good comments after the story.

seenitB4
72837
Points
seenitB4 06/10/12 - 08:36 am
4
0

Be careful when voting please

This is something I have noticed while voting.....even thoigh you punch a certain candidate it is possible another name pops up......voter error or machine error---don't know for sure....but DO CHECK ......

Khan'tB4Real
948
Points
Khan'tB4Real 06/10/12 - 10:38 am
5
1

Thank you Sheriff Strength

Unpublished

Saying your job (or doing your job) prevented you from voting is a cop-out. No where have I worked has EVER said I couldn't leave and vote. And if you looked at my voting record (registered to vote at 17 1/2 years old) I have voted Republican all but once. I must admit in 1992 I voted Democratic and lived to regret voting for a sleazy snake. Lol

David Hopper
46
Points
David Hopper 06/10/12 - 02:37 pm
4
1

Thank you AC for the story.

Hello,

I tried asking for specific election dates so I could tell them exactly where I was or at the very least why I did not vote but the Chronicle, I guess, just did not have that information. Yes. I registered in late 2002 after I turned 18 and was able to come home during my first semester as a Blue Ridge Rifle, freshman. I spent August 2002-May 30th 2004 at North Georgia College and State University, in Dahlonega GA.

In October of 2006 I started a career as an over-the-road truck driver for Schneider National (Bulk Division) and crisscrossed this nation and Canada. I loved driving so much, that I decided to try my hand at being a Lease Operator (self-employed driver) for Prime, Inc. in August 2008. September 2008, I was seriously injured in Ohio and then hospitalized for 9 days at the Joseph M. Still Burn center of Doctors Hospital-Augusta, GA. Thankfully the doctors, nurses, and surgeons there were able to save my right leg from the infection that ran rampant through my leg for 5 days before I was even able to get home to a hospital. I actually had to deliver a load in Atlanta on my way home, because I was responsible for that tractor-trailer and could not just abandon it anywhere to go to a hospital. A couple of surgeries, a skin graft, and recovery I went back to driving for Prime, Inc (as a Tanker-lease operator) until March 2009.

As we all know the end of 2008, beginning of 2009 is when the economy went into a free-fall, and the lease operation was no longer financially sustainable and I was out of work until August 2009, when I was hired as a temporary flat-bed driver and warehousemen. That assignment ended, and in October 2009 is when I was hired as a Log Auditor, Dispatcher, and Driver Manager with Transwood, Inc's local terminal on Dixon-Airline Rd, between HWYs 56 and 56 spur in my District.

I worked for them until May 2011, during the later part as a driver again. May 18, 2011 I broke my right leg (yes same leg as the previous injury) the second day on a temporary job delivering HVAC equipment in a box-van delivery truck. Call it silly; call it dedication, even with this injury I still brought my equipment back to where it was supposed to be BEFORE I sought medical help. I thought I just sprained my knee, but as the swelling increased on the way home it became harder and harder to drive the manual truck. I got myself out of the cab but was stuck right where I was until I was taken to the hospital. I was out of work, in a wheel-chair, crutches, and then a cane until I finally recovered from that lateral serpentine tibial plateau fracture. Basically, the fall caused me to break the top of the lower leg bone, and it could not take any weight until it healed. Then I was in physical therapy and recovery while in school.

That injury allowed me to realize that I had to get back into college and finish my degree. Driving a truck is really fun, but I did not want to HAVE to rely on that for the rest of my life. It is not conducive to raising a family or having a steady home life. Also, it is literally impossible to plan more than a couple days ahead while driving to every city in this nation. As a truck driver, I very well may have been told to go to New Jersey, Chicago, California, etc. when it was time to vote. That is why I asked for specific dates, so I could tell the Chronicle and my voters where I was. I absolutely do believe voting is important, because that is the only way we as citizens can keep those voted into or out of office responsible to the people. As a working person in the same industry that many of my District's voters work in, we all understand that one may not be free during every election day to go vote, and those years I was driving over the road it was impossible for me to tell my company to send me home to vote, and it would have been silly for that company to lose their revenue to allow it 100% of the time.

August 2011 to the present I am back in college at Augusta State University and have been on the Dean's List for BOTH semesters even with the bum leg and being a student worker. The end of March 2012 is when I decided to replace the current person that is supposed to be representing House District 125 (formerly numbered 122). Looking at the ENTIRE voting record of the person I am running against, it is quite obvious as to how out of touch with my District this person is.

Respectfully,

David Hopper
Republican Candidate, GA House District #125
HopperForHouse.com

3613 Elliott Blvd
Augusta, GA 30906
706-399-6347 Cell

facebook.com/hopperforhouse

csraguy
1797
Points
csraguy 06/10/12 - 06:17 pm
2
0

Khan't

Guess we finally found one thing we can agree upon. Everyone who is a law abiding productive member of society should always vote. We should cherish living in such a great country with opportunities that many don't have and probably never will during their lifetime.

I do agree with LL though, it is not a duty but a privilege and it should not be taken lightly.

KSL
106062
Points
KSL 06/10/12 - 07:06 pm
1
1

Sometimes voting for the

Sometimes voting for the lessor of evils is distasteful. That being said, I have failed to vote in very few elections since I was registered to vote at the age of 18.

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