Really, that’s the only way to categorize voter turnout for this week’s primary election that effectively decided two county commission seats and did decide two school board seats and who goes to a run-off in a third.
Voting is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans, but it is too often taken for granted.
In total, only 27.2 percent of Brevard’s eligible voters made their voices heard in this year’s primary. That’s just too low. Way too low. Don’t think it matters? Well, consider this: Former State Rep. Tom Goodson was elected to the Brevard County Commission representing District 2 despite not even getting 6,000 votes. (Yes, I know he will appear on the ballot in November against an NPA candidate but for all intents and purposes Goodson is the winner).
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It would have been safe to assume a ton of interest in this specific primary race since it was an open seat previously held by a lawmaker known for his divisive remarks. Former commissioner Bryan Lober abruptly resigned in April citing a relative’s death as the county clerk initiated an audit into his office spending. Additionally, one of the candidates — Chris Hattaway — alleged Sheriff Wayne Ivey offered him a job in Goodson’s office paying $50,000 a year if he agreed to drop out. Hattaway refused and stayed in the race.
“Thank you to the voters of District 2 and to everyone who worked so hard on our campaign,” Goodson said on election night. “I deeply appreciate your support, and look forward to the general election in November. As your county commissioner, I will work to strengthen our economy, keep our streets safe, restore the Indian River and keep taxes low.”
There are 91,000 registered voters in District 2, which contains Merritt Island, Cocoa, Rockledge, Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach. There were no Democrats running and the presence of an NPA candidate in the general election was enough to close the primary to all but Republicans. Only 39,902 Republican voters had a voice.
Goodson came away with the victory with 5,996 votes in the four-person race. That’s worth repeating. Only 5,996 of the eligible 39,902 Republican voters cast a ballot for Goodson. That’s only 15 percent if you’re doing the math.
What is astounding is that 8,362 votes were cast against him. But with Chris Hattaway and Dave Netterstrom essentially splitting the 6,534 votes cast in their favor, Goodson cruised to an easy victory with less than 42 percent of the votes cast.
Joey Cholewa finished fourth with 1,828 votes.
That means 25,544 of the eligible 39,902 voters — or 64 percent — didn’t bother to show up. This is certainly not Goodson’s fault but isn’t it strange to see someone elected with so few votes?
Incredibly and unfortunately this sort of turnout is not unique to Brevard County. Many Americans only go to the polls during presidential elections even though it is the local elections that have the most impact on our everyday lives. The right to vote is something many in the world do not enjoy and many have given their lives fighting for that very right.
A 2016 Yale University study found that the voter turnout for congressional and local primaries is much lower. The reason? Well, at least according to this one study, many in the electorate consider the stakes lower and they feel less social pressure to turn out and vote. Another reason is that many voters have said they prefer deferring to those who know and care more about the contests.
So, the few decide the leadership for the masses. Not sure this is what the founding fathers had in mind, but if you don’t mind letting others — including insiders and those with vested interests — decide who should be in charge, then continue staying home.
Just don’t complain about it later.
Contact Torres at 321-242-3684 or at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter @johnalbertorres or on Facebook at facebook.com/FTjohntorres.
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