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High turnout doesn't make issue's timing fair
By JEFF WEBB, Editor of Editorials
Published January 31, 2008
Tuesday's 2008 presidential preference primary election is mercifully history, and people who are interested in learning more about how it unfolded in Hernando County can pore over the details, which are dutifully reported elsewhere in this section and on the Supervisor of Elections' Web site www.hernandovotes.com/
I did just that, and the details reinforce my strongly held belief that it should be against state law to place a referendum to amend the Constitution on any ballot other than the general election.
While some people are crowing about the high voter turnout (38 percent statewide and even higher, 45 percent, in Hernando County), they are conveniently overlooking that that number is not even a majority of registered voters, and that if the election had been held on Nov. 4, the turnout probably would have been closer to 80 percent.
In Hernando County, there are 115,579 registered voters. On Tuesday 45 percent of them, or 51,885, went to the polls. Of the 51,885 ballots cast, Republicans accounted for 24,870, and Democrats 20,652. The remaining 6,363 voters were either registered with minor political parties, or had no party affiliation.
While the opportunity to help nominate a presidential candidate drew roughly 50 percent of the registered Democrats and Republicans in Hernando County, the 6,363 represents only 26 percent of the 24,481 eligible unaffiliated voters. The only vote the no-party and minor-party people could cast was on Amendment 1, which altered the property tax homestead exemption. In Hernando, an overwhelming majority (71 percent) of those who voted approved that measure, which was even more than the statewide average (64 percent).
Would the outcome have been different if Amendment 1 were on the November ballot? Maybe, but probably not. But this much is certain: Many, many more votes would have been cast, and many, many more of those would have belonged to no-party voters, ensuring an indisputable, nonpartisan mandate for change.
It is just plain wrong to allow an issue that affects everyone in the state to be forced onto an early-year ballot, only to be decided by less than a majority of registered voters.
That said, if you are one of the 51,885 Hernando County residents who cared enough about yourself and your government to vote Tuesday, pat yourself on the back. You not only made the effort, but you made it clear that motivated voters call the shots.
Now, go find a voting slacker and thank him for giving you that power.