Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Primary reflections

The GOP primary, both statewide and in the 6th Congressional District, went about as expected. Both Allen and Goodlatte won going away.

I've served as an officer of election for a number of years. A few reflections on yesterday's experience:
  • It was a long day with slow dozy periods. Perhaps the early miserable weather had something to do with turnout. All the officers were turning pages in books and magazines and, in their boredom, eating way too much for such a sedentary activity. Kudos to all those who arrived at the polling place by 5:00 AM to set up equipment and stayed until 8:00 PM to be sure the votes were accurately counted and reported.
  • At this polling place, as was apparently typical across the district, about 7% of the registered voters turned out. Can't even hit double digits for a contested party primary in one of the most Republican leaning areas of the Commonwealth! That certainly says something...!
  • That said, yesterday's turnout nearly doubled that of the March presidential primary.
  • I didn't keep stats, but from observation I'd say the vast majority of those voting qualified for senior citizen coffee at McDonald's. Kudos for them for getting out and voting. There were several first-time 18 year old voters too.
  • The officers of election handled "situations" with professionalism and grace. Why do some (a minority but a vocal one) folks enter the polling place with a bone to pick with us? Fussin' about the voting equipment. Commenting on individual candidates as if they need to justify something to us? Fortunately there were way more pleasant chats than anything requiring diplomacy or deaf ears.
  • Voter comments confirm what anyone who follows elections knows -- a primary (as opposed to a nominating convention) works to a huge advantage of the incumbent or the candidate with better name recognition. Numerous folks were unfamiliar with or had never heard of some of the candidates. A few voters were confused thinking this primary also included candidates and offices they've heard some early comment about in the news -- next year's statewide races.
  • A little quick math reveals that with the low turnout and the minimal number of elections officers, in this precinct each vote cast cost the locality about $10.00 just for the officers' stipends. The more hidden costs of the technicians who set up the voting machines; the preparation and printing of poll books; all the posters, signs, official envelopes, and other materials required probably run operating cost up by a couple bucks per vote. That doesn't include electricity and other costs borne by the school, the fire house, or Ruritan Hall that provides the facility.
Yes, keeping the wheels of our democracy running straight and true requires dedicated citizens willing to man the polls and a considerable amount of taxpayer money -- in the case of a primary, public money spent for what is a political party function. Citizens should appreciate that fact and participate. In a county that typically votes well over 65% even for crummy GOP candidates in the General Election, you'd think more of those good Republican voters would want to help select their party's candidates. Yes, Allen and Goodlatte won the nominations, but apathy still rules.

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