With more than 50,000 registered voters in Bartow County, only 8,617 cast votes Tuesday to decide the county’s next sole commissioner and even fewer did so for tax commissioner.
While 31.7 percent of voters turned out for the July 31 primary, turnout for the Aug. 21 runoff was just 17.3 percent. Despite a higher turnout than previous runoffs, Bartow County Elections Supervisor Joseph Kirk was not pleased with the results.
“It’s just sad,” Kirk said. “This was a little bit higher than our normal runoff turnouts, but I refuse to call it good just because it’s higher than the last time we had a runoff. This isn’t one of those things you can look at from a relative perspective.
“We’re looking at around 17 percent and this was one of the most important elections we’ve had in a long time. This was who is going to run our county for the next four years and it was decided by 17 percent of the people who are registered to vote, which is only a subset of those who could register to vote.”
The highest voter turnout rate by precinct was Pine Log with 25.6 percent while the lowest was Allatoona with 6.6 percent. Seven of the 17 precincts broke the 20 percent turnout mark, including Beavers Drive, Cartersville East, Cartersville West, Folsom, Pine Log, Taylorsville and White.
Kirk and his team at the Bartow County Voter Registration and Elections Office will continue to spread awareness and build educational programs encouraging residents to vote. He admits, however, that the problem may not lie solely in education, but instead the underlying problem is apathy. Although support was strong for each candidate and warnings of the race couldn’t be missed, including signs, ads and mailouts, Kirk will continue to push for voter education hoping to increase turnout for future elections.
“I think a lot of it is apathy, but at the same time, I’m not going to leave that as the final answer,” Kirk said. “We will keep trying no matter what, but I guess you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
“I’m hoping later on this year we can get some more voters out, even though it won’t decide a whole lot for the local offices, just get in the habit of coming out to vote. Moving forward, we’ll try to educate the public more on when things are and what the responsibilities of registered voters are.”
As the fervor of primary elections dies down, Kirk reminds candidates and supporters to be mindful of their signs and remove them as soon as possible. Although there will be little opposition to local races in the November general election and none scheduled for either race decided Tuesday, Kirk also reiterated the fact that primary winners are not technically elected until the November election. He asks any independent candidates or write-in hopefuls to contact the elections office for qualification details.
For more information, visit www.bartowga.org or call 770-387-5089.