The GOP presidential hopefuls left South Carolina last week. The Democrat hopefuls leave tomorrow, if they haven’t left already. Floating in the wake of the 2016 primary season is the detritus of broken dreams, landfills overflowing with red, white and blue campaign signs, political vendettas drawn anew and the feeling that South Carolina’s time to shine on the national stage dimmed again sooner than expected.
Yet, the collective we of the Palmetto State will pat ourselves on the back and sing praises of how the collective we are a great political state and how isn’t it great how people many turned out to vote and isn’t it great how great we looked at being great in politics.
How great it is?
Until June, when another round of primaries sweeps through the state. And then we don’t look so great. If the presidential season is a tornado, then local primaries are a slight yawn that greets the morning. Turnouts are beyond low traditionally across the board. A few hundred votes here. A few hundred votes there. A couple thousand if lucky. Little turnout for what are the most important issues for voters. Cry and scream about Obamacare, free college and walls across the borders, but the votes that really affect the average South Carolinian come in quiet Junes. Those are the people who will make decisions on taxes, schools, roads. For the most part, a June primary ends most political races because there is no political opposition come November. We are essentially a one-party state in most areas when it comes to general elections.
Consider these numbers for Greenville County in the past Junes:
Year Registered Voters Votes Pct. Turnout
2014 280,080 42,867 15.26%
2012 279,863 26,307 9.40%
2010 256,400 65,422 25.22%
2008 231,572 40,191 17.36%
2006 N/A 33,518 N/A
Tough to ascertain a trend isn’t it? It appears that in presidential election years (like this one), Greenville voters are less likely to show up. Let’s drill down on the numbers a little. For example, Greenville County Council District 21, which is one of the state’s most affluent districts, saw less than 2,400 voters go to the ballot box in 2012. That is important in 2016 as long-time incumbent Jim Burns is not running again. At least one candidate has announced already for the seat, business leader Stacy Kuper based on the social media chatter we have seen. There may be more. We won’t know how many until mid-March, when people have to officially file, because that is when the local media will take note.
But this issue is not the media’s fault. It is everyone’s fault. We have allowed local politics to become a backburner. A non-issue. A forgotten land.
It shouldn’t be this way. As with Friday Flash tradition, we leave with you some things to ponder and do.
- Find out who represents you on the School Board, in the Statehouse and on County Council. If you live in a municipality, who is your City Council rep?
- Give them a call or email. Ask to meet.
- Let us know how that goes. Was it a good experience? Did they meet you?
- Register to vote if you already haven’t.
We’ve shared our thoughts, and we’d love to know yours. As always, drop us a line at one of the links below.
*F as in Frank. Frank Underwood. Who was consulted in the creation of this newsletter. You’ve been warned.