OUR VIEW: We’ve got to do better because Tuesday’s voter turnout was embarrassing

Published 9:59 am Wednesday, March 22, 2023

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Willie Edmondson was elected mayor of LaGrange last night, making history in the process as the first Black mayor in our city.

It was a great night, with two great candidates, and ultimately voters selected Edmondson in a close race.

This was a celebratory night for our city, and we congratulate our new mayor, who we believe will do great things for the city of LaGrange.

We don’t want to dampen the mood, but the voter turnout was disappointing.

Actually, that’s probably too kind of a word. Dismal. Embarrassing. Problematic.

The voter turnout was 17.24% for the mayor’s race, meaning 16,172 people chose not to vote.

Only 3,369 people drove to a voting precinct (where there were no lines) and actually cast a ballot. It took all of about 5 minutes to vote, and even that might be pushing it. Even with early voting available for weeks, and Saturday voting available, right at 83% of LaGrange’s registered voters didn’t participate.

Our city was electing a new mayor last night, the person who will ultimately guide large decisions over the next few years. What can be more important than that?

And yet, if you put every LaGrange voter in a room, 8 out of every 10 didn’t participate.

That is unbelievable.

The SPLOST vote was even worse.

For such an impactful decision, one that will drive growth all over Troup County via projects, only 9.5% of the county participated.

We don’t understand.

If this was a presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, the turnout would’ve probably been record-breaking. However, we’re guessing neither the current president or the former president could locate LaGrange or Troup County on a map if you gave them five guesses.

They don’t know that we’re looking for a police chief and a fire chief. They don’t know that Kia Parkway needs to be paved to keep one of the most important roads in all of Georgia in tip-top shape.

Our national leaders don’t understand how impactful the Thread has been on our community. Nor do they know about the road, bridge and park improvements planned under the new SPLOST and how much they’ll enhance our community.

But Willie Edmondson and Jim Arrington know.

Edmondson will play a large role, as mayor, in how the city’s budget is created. Where the money is spent. Where funding is cut. He’ll represent us in the good things that happen, such as major economic announcements and ribbon cuttings, and the bad, like when tornadoes tear through our city.

He, and the other city council members, are the ones you’ll call when you have a pothole in your neighborhood. Try calling Washington D.C. about that and see what happens.

We don’t know if the results would’ve changed, had 30%, 60% or 90% of registered voters actually participated Tuesday night, but it doesn’t matter. That isn’t the point.

The point is that when 83% of LaGrange registered voters had a chance to have their say on a new mayor, most chose not to participate.

And given the struggles many in this country faced in earning the right to vote not that long ago, it’s shameful that so many of us take that right for granted.