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Posted May 3, 2012 | comments 9 Comments

Most town elections see low voter turnout

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

Voter turnout for Tuesday's local elections remained low in most town council and mayors races.

In Front Royal, where nine people vied for three seats on the Town Council and two candidates sought the mayor's post, 1,335 voters cast ballots at the polls. The total equates to 15.50 percent of the town's 8,608 registered voters, according to the Warren County voter registrar's office.

Elections for each of Shenandoah County's six towns drew divergent participation from the registered voters.

Data from the Shenandoah County voter registrar's office show low turnout in most of the towns where races remained uncontested or ballots offered the same number of choices as seats up for election. But not all towns followed the same trend. Toms Brook voters had six candidates seeking the same number of seats on the town council.

  • New Market has 1,203 registered voters and 300 people, or 24.93 percent, cast ballots in person. Voters chose a mayor from two candidates and among four candidates to fill three seats on Town Council.
  • Mt. Jackson has 951 registered voters and 190 people, or 19.97 percent, cast ballots in person. Voters chose among five candidates to fill three seats on town council.
  • Toms Brook has 170 registered voters and 22 people, or 12.94 percent, cast ballots in person. Voters chose among six candidates to fill six seats. Mayor Philip K. Fauber ran unopposed for re-election.
  • Strasburg has 3,987 registered voters and 476 people, or 11.94 percent, cast ballots in person. Voters chose among eight candidates to fill half the number of seats. Mayor Timothy F. Taylor ran unopposed.
  • Woodstock has 3,043 registered voters and 144 people, or 4.73 percent, cast ballots in person. Voters chose among three candidates to fill three seats.
  • Edinburg has 649 registered voters and 27 people, or 4.16 percent, cast ballots in person. Voters chose among three candidates to fill three seats.

The totals do not include the number of absentee or provisional ballots.

Election officials in Shenandoah County who canvassed ballots Wednesday noted that voters turned out in expected numbers.

"I think it was what was expected so, in that regard, it certainly was not a low turnout," said Joyce Gary, secretary for the Shenandoah County electoral board.

Election officials had expected a total turnout of 10-12 percent but had hoped that number might extend to 15 percent, Gary said. Data from the county registrar's office show the board made a good prediction -- the total turnout for Shenandoah was 11.58 percent.

"But that is still kind of low," Gary said.

The board member acknowledged that candidate choice likely played a role in increased voter turnout for a particular town's election. Gary noted Strasburg's turnout appeared higher likely because so many candidates sought election to few seats. However, the towns with uncontested races in their elections and thus low turnout offset the gains seen in the other contests.

Whether any of the towns would seek to move their elections to November remains unknown. Some localities such as Middletown and Stephens City consolidated their elections with those conducted in November in an effort to increase participation in the process as well as to save money.

Gary, on the board since March, said over the years the topic has come up for discussion on occasion.

"I don't know that it's making progress toward doing that or that it's been shot down already or anything but, yes, there's been talk about that," Gary said.

Towns which decide to change their elections from May to November must seek approval from the Virginia General Assembly.

"It's always out there especially in these economic times," Gary said. "Having elections is kind of expensive, as everything else is."

9 Comments | Leave a comment

    Now that the Towns will be responsible by the State of Virginia for the cost of the May election combined with the continued low voter turn out, I hope the new Council will move quickly to move future elections to Nov. All you need is 4 votes and you can by pass the Mayor. Councilman Sayre can shine on this one by voting to move the elections to Nov.

    I hope all towns move their elections to November. It just makes more sense. But for the citizens who did not come out to vote I hope they don't complain about fees, taxes, or wasteful spending, because when you don't vote you don't have a right to complain. People wonder why no one wants to run in Strasburg...perhaps it's because the sitting people (that everyone supposedly dislikes) keep getting reelected. I'll be interested to see the election in two years...I bet those running will just walk on. I can't imagine anyone wasting their time to seek office when people simply choose to stay at home. The turn out was embarrassing. I hope Rich, Rick, Bob, and Jocelyn ask every person who complains to them if they voted...it would be funny to see. Good luck guys! :)

      I believe many voters feel their voice is not heard anymore, so what's the point? And I don't agree with you that no one has the right to complain regardless. It's just like our national election, we are merely given the illusion of power and limited choices.

      As long as we are paying taxes, we can and should complain (when it's valid). That new jail project is a good example of what most people do NOT want.

      Yes, move these local elections to November, then you won't be shutting down the schools again. Better yet, (Ross Perot suggested) "hold elections on both Saturday and Sunday so working people can go to the polls. Release no information until all polls are closed".

      Do we dare consider change?


        I respectfully disagree with you Diana. Even if the choices are both crap (like our upcoming Presidential election) there is usually at least something that one has that's better than the other. When people sit out voting they give up their voice and say, "I really don't care". If that's the case than why complain? Sitting at home on our computers whining and moaning and not doing anything is ridiculous. If people want change they at least have to TRY, otherwise we all just become slaves to everyone else's whims. We get and have what we deserve.

          In theory all that you say is true, but not in reality. As far as the national elections go: we are usually choosing the lesser of two evils (if you will). People are more often than not just mindlessly following some group. Few people try to actually understand the real issues past the political hype and some are proably too tired to care.

          Our country is currently ruled by money. Whoever has the most - has the power and that puts big business in charge. It's going to take more than a mere vote to get anything done now, perhaps even an uprising - a revolution.

          As far as this year's local election - there was no real contest so I don't think many people could see the point of voting.

          Idealistically, "We the People" are in charge, but that's hardly even an illusion anymore. The FAT CATS are running the show: we just keep going through the motions and raise a little hell every now and then in protest.

    It's unfortunate that our elected officials appear to FEAR a november election.

    It shows that they even know that they won't get reelected if a majority of the area gets a chance to vote.

    Good old boys are vastly outnumbered when it comes to November, and that's the only thing keeping most of these officials in office.

    Allow me to correct my typo from first paragraph: "....some are probably too tired to care".

    Diana, you seem to be making the argument for keeping the local elections in May. November elections will have a larger turnout but there will be a high percentage of lemmings that have no idea of what they are actually voting for. People being bused to the polls by "fat cats" and other special interest groups won't result in a better informed electorate, just more voters. The May turnout is lame but it probably does represent the informed and concerned electorate.

    I didn't vote because there is no one to vote for, I am not saying I dont care, I do but, not one person running will do anything that I want. So, it makes no difference which one wins. Sad but true.


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