Bartow County primary turnout 'disappointing'
by Jason Lowrey
May 25, 2014 | 786 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Jason Lowrey

jason.lowrey@daily-tribune.com

Bartow County turnout for Tuesday’s statewide primary was best described as “disappointing,” according to election officials.

The county’s voter turnout for the May 20 primary was 16.60 percent, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s website. Out of the 48,319 registered voters in the county, only 8,020 went to the polls.

“We were really hoping for, and prepared the polls for, about 35 percent. We know that that would be optimistic. We didn’t have any idea that would be less than half of what would show. So, yeah, we are very disappointed,” said Assistant Elections Supervisor Cheryl Billard.

Of the 17 precincts in the county, only two cracked 20 percent in turnout. The Beavers Drive precinct hit 21 percent with 782 votes cast out of a possible 3,723, and the Folsom precinct reached 20.54 percent with 183 votes out of 891 registered voters. The Zena Drive precinct had the lowest turnout at 12.25 percent, or 484 votes out of 3,951 registered voters.

The lower than expected turnout, Billard said, could partially be due to the primary being moved up to May.

“We are also keeping in mind that they changed the calendar and that primary’s much earlier than it usually is and kind of conflicted with the last week of school,” she said. “That’s a little bit understandable, but our absentee turnout was low as well, so people didn’t take advantage of voting early on either.”

The county’s early voting numbers, Billard added, were approximately 1,197. The number does not include those who voted early in the Adairsville special mayoral election.

The voter turnout for the Adairsville election was higher than the county’s overall turnout, according to a Bartow County Board of Elections and Voter Registration document. Voter turnout was 25.2 percent in the mayoral race, with 479 out of 1,901 registered voters making it to the polls.

“That’s about, that tends to be on par for Adairsville,” Billard said. “It was a little bit lower than maybe what they had in November, but since this is a special election — it wasn’t really planned — that’s a little bit understandable. That wasn’t too far off of what we were expecting. But obviously we would like people to participate much more in municipal elections than they do.”

In an effort to get the vote out on election day, the elections office placed a number of signs around the county urging people to go to the polls.

“This time around we did do something new. ... We actually got custom signs for the election. They are reusable. We can cover up the date that we used, the May 20 date, and in the future put whatever [the] revelant date is. But obviously those didn’t seem to make much of a dent,” Billard said.

The next election will be the July 22 runoff for those candidates who made it through the primary. Anyone can vote in the runoff election even if they did not cast a vote in the primary, Billard explained. She hoped by the time of the runoff election that local efforts involving social media and statewide work involving mobile phone applications to get out the vote would make an impact on turnout numbers.

In some cases, simply having a runoff can draw more voters.

“Occasionally we’ll see a little bit of a pickup in a runoff between people. Sometimes when the races are so contested, the way the U.S. Senate was on the Republican side, the congressional race on the Republican side, a lot of times people will wait until it gets whittled down to just the two candidates and then show up,” Billard said.

For more information on voting and voter registration, call the Bartow County elections office at 770-387-5098. The office also maintains a Facebook page, under the name Bartow County Voter Registration and Elections, where it posts updates on voting information.