Silver lining in voter-turnout figures?
Story by Chris Graham
A shade under a third of the registered voters in the Greater Augusta County area went to the polls on Tuesday.
That’s the good news.
Seriously. It is.
Two out of three registered voters didn’t even bother, and we’re jumping up and down about the third guy.
So here’s the bad news.
The way the political scientists judge voter turnout – with measures accounting for those who don’t even bother to register – puts the actual figure somewhere in the low 20s.
“In an off-year election, this is about as good as it gets, unfortunately,” said Matt Smyth, director of communications for the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Augusta County has 36,103 registered voters, according to the State Board of Elections.
Of that total, 12,201 voted on Tuesday – or 33.8 percent.
Congratulations, Augusta County voters. You are at the top of the area voting class.
In Waynesboro, 3,220 of the city’s 10,665 registered voters came out for Tuesday’s elections – or 30.2 percent.
In Staunton, 3,805 of the city’s 12,715 registered voters turned out on Tuesday – or 29.9 percent.
Overall, 19,226 of the 59,483 people registered to vote in the three localities voted on Tuesday – or 32.3 percent.
“The shame is that next year, when we have the presidential election, you’re going to see turnout in the 70- or 80-percent area,” said Richard Homes, who won election as Augusta County treasurer in Tuesday’s elections.
“It’s good that people care so much to vote in those elections, but the local elections are more important to you than the presidential election, or the election for governor. The president isn’t going to know who you are, but the treasurer or the board of supervisors is, and they’re going to listen and be able to do something about it,” Homes said.
Smyth agreed with Homes that the turnout figures from this week’s election are a “sad state of affairs.”
“Thirty percent, in this context, is something to jump up and down about. One jump, maybe. Or two. But no more than that,” Smyth said.