Bartow's female registered voters continues to exceed males at anniversary of 19th amendment
by Marie Nesmith
Aug 31, 2010 | 1498 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Elizabeth Campbell Shadburn, left, who was assistant poll manager of the Cartersville West precinct, and poll worker Cathyrn Dixon signed in voter Teresa Gentry during the 2009 fall election. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Elizabeth Campbell Shadburn, left, who was assistant poll manager of the Cartersville West precinct, and poll worker Cathyrn Dixon signed in voter Teresa Gentry during the 2009 fall election. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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As an avid voter and a polling manager for the Cartersville West precinct, Elizabeth Campbell Shadburn has been passionate about the election process since the mid-1940s.

"The first time I worked in an election was in 1945, when the men hadn't gotten back from service from the war," said Shadburn, an 86-year-old Cartersville resident. "That was the first time women got to help at all and we counted votes during the day.

"So it was unusual for women to do that. ... They had it at the [gold-domed] courthouse. We had a room and people voted paper ballots and every so often they'd bring them and put them on the table for us to count."

With August commemorating the 90th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote, Shadburn was surprised and inspired by her research on the subject. Shadburn was most shocked by her discovery that even though the amendment was approved by Congress in 1919 and later received the needed three-fourths votes from the states, Georgia did not pass the measure until 1970.

"Women really have worked hard to get the right to vote," said Shadburn, who registered to vote when she was 18. "I think it is important and as I've read all this stuff about what some of the women have done in different states [it reinforces] how important it is.

"It's a right to have, to be able to vote and so many don't take advantage of it and I don't know why some people just don't vote. They're just not interested but yet they like to gripe."

Like the voting process -- ranging from votes being cast on paper ballots to electronic touch-screen machines -- Shadburn said the elections' turnouts have run the gamut as well.

"One of the biggest disappointments is when people don't show up to vote and yet I've seen them when they've come out to vote and they'll be standing in line to do it," she said. "But having the early elections like we do, it gives them every opportunity to vote if they will but that does cut down on some of the voting at each place too, I think, when they have the early voting.

"They make it so easy for people to do it, it's a shame they don't take advantage. And it's such an important thing, a right to have to vote I think."

Data provided by the Bartow County Board of Elections show there were 47,110 registered voters in Bartow County for the July general primary, 25,088 of whom were female. Mirroring the county's overall increase in population, the current statistic is a stark contrast to that of 1996, when there were 20,684 registered voters, 11,032 of whom were female and 9,652 were men.

In every general and primary election since 1996, more women have registered to vote than men, and 10 of the 14 contests also have seen a higher female turnout. However, the statistic is almost flipped when looking at the percentage of eligible females who voted in each election, with only three of the possible 14 contests posting higher numbers than that of males. Gender statistics for the July election was not available.

"The thing that's kind of interesting is it looks like it's more likely for a female to register to vote but more likely for a male to actually show up and vote," said Joseph Kirk, elections supervisor for the Bartow County Board of Elections, in looking at the voting data for Bartow County's primary and general elections since 1996. "The only exception to that rule it looks like is the general presidential elections.

"We've had a steady increase in our voting population all the way up to 2008 when we had a purging process and our numbers dropped down a little bit this year. But the turnout has been very steady and what I've noticed from these graphs is there's almost a direct correlation there between how many males register and how many females register and there's always a percentage more of females."

The increase of female voters is encouraging news to many local women, including Virginia Garrison, a 64-year-old retired educator and member of the Cartersville Business and Professional Women's Club. In addition to urging local politicians and business leaders to support the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, she has also registered voters in Bartow County and coordinated political forums for the Bartow/Cartersville Retired Educators Association.

"I always vote," Garrison said. "I just think whether it's woman or man, it's everybody's right to vote and you need to exercise that right. ... If you don't vote you're not making a choice that you have. And I always laughingly say that, 'If I don't vote, I can't complain.'"