Why was voter turnout so low?

The recent Asheville City Council primary featured 15 candidates, several divisive, high-profile issues, and a city with no small number of political activists. So why did so few people vote?

A mere 13 percent of registered city voters turned out — a record low. This happened despite political fights over partisan elections and development — note to mention the wealth of candidates, who hailed from a variety of political perspectives.

Many reasons have been suggested, from a lack of aggressive media campaigns to nonpartisan elections to the old standby of simple voter apathy.

So why do you think so few Ashevilleans showed up at the polls? And will anything be different come the Nov. 6 general election?

— David Forbes, staff writer

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12 thoughts on “Why was voter turnout so low?

  1. Rob Close

    Well, I moved to the Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction, which is under our council’s authority, but not allowed to vote for them. So don’t blame me, blame the rain.

    But on this note, why isn’t the ETJ allowed to vote? Doesn’t that seem entirely against the basis of American Democracy?

  2. I can’t speak for anyone else, but by the time I made it through that nasty traffic jam on 240 that afternoon (a mulch truck caught on fire during rush hour, and it was raining pretty heavily), I just wanted to go home, pop open a beer and flop down on the couch for a little while.

    But I voted first.

  3. Dionysis

    The low turnout seems to reflect what occurs on the national level. An election looms, people rant and rave and then fail to vote. One could conclude that the answer to the rhetorical question of why people don’t vote is simple: apathy.

  4. bob

    There should be a re-vote until there is something resembling a majority voting, otherwise this should be seen as a 87 percent vote against all of these candidates.

  5. Ash-villian

    Perhaps after the past few years of a City Council that disregards the public interest the has now become disinterested with the candidates as well.

    I think it is time for a different approach: maybe having representatives from certain areas; North, West, etc. This way parts of town that continually are neglected may have a chance.

  6. I concur with Rob Close –
    The ETJ effected a lot of folks that I knew wanted to partake but were not able due to jurisdiction.

    As far as national vs local – it is my belief that it is far more crucial to participate in voting on a municipal level. Your voice really can be heard in our community; but with the FUBAR Electoral College system, digital machine errors, and godly Supreme Courts who rule over the land in whatever manner they see fit, it is no wonder that people feel disenfranchised and jaded about national politics. (At least I do.)

    Answer me this – Did more people sign the partisan protest papers than vote?
    That would be quite a sad statement.

    I know my offices were calling folks trying to get them out there to vote (with no specific candidate enforcement) up until the polls closed. We got word that as of late afternoon only 1300 folks managed to get their butts to the polls.
    After all of the hullabaloo – you think more people who say they care would actually put their so-called cares into motivated action.

    Let’s hope the full election is stronger.

  7. tralalogic

    The Mountain Xpress’ weekly coverage of local politics is terrific. My local representatives are all interesting and hard working. When election time rolls around I am happy I can do something to influence the future of a city I care about. I have always felt that the world we were given when we were born is the result of the dreams, ambitions, and hard work of our ancestors. It is easy to pretend that nothing is required of us and we can let the great system they built carry on with out vigilance or effort. We have to remember their sacrifices and honor them with our own serious effort.

  8. John Warren

    People are happy with the current council. Low voter turn out is often a sign that people would rather have the incumbents that what ever new freaks decided to run. We have no open seats and the only three worth voting for are the three already on council.

  9. Jim

    Instant Runoff Voting ( fairvote.org/irv ) would
    • boost voter turnout (since the primary and the general election would be merged), as well as
    • saving $60,000 (the cost of a city primary election)

  10. Martin Ramsey

    I personally think its backlash from the recent attempts to drag national politics into a local arena, and a pretty liberal one. I didn’t give a damn if most o’ the slate lost which is enough to keep one from voting. Thank god for the scanner instead of computer. Copy machines never break.

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