By Mike Phillips
I learned two new words this election: undercount and overcount.
Overcount means how many people ignored the “vote for one” instruction and voted for two. It’s just a few, so we can skip them.
But undercount? That group is big. And it bugs me. I want to somehow get inside their heads. You see, they are 14-15% of the Fernandina Beach residents who filled out mail ballots or came to the polls but didn’t vote on local races.
I can think of a few possible reasons:
Maybe they weren’t impressed by any of the candidates. I’ve been in that position myself. It’s tough. But in my opinion, you’ve gotta choose.
Maybe they’re part-time residents, registered to vote, who love the beaches and restaurants but don’t care enough about the community to get involved. I’ve met some of those. So have you. They’re nice people, usually, but if they don’t care to matter, well, they don’t.
Or maybe, they’re just jaded. They’re long-timers or even natives. But they’ve watched one city commission after another kick important cans down the road, and they think it must not matter who is elected. I hate to say so, they might have a point. But still, you’ve gotta choose.
There was a time in this country when virtually every voting citizen cared passionately about who was elected or not elected. They read scads of small news sheets published by mostly biased editors, sorted out the editors’ attitudes and made up their own minds. It was a rambunctious, highly informed citizenry. They loved their hard-won freedom of speech, and they granted it to every other citizen, no matter how obnoxious that citizen’s views might be. That’s not nostalgia. I have shelves of American history to prove it.
So here is my message to the 15%: You came here, you registered and now it’s time for you to matter. You can’t matter – politically, at any rate – if you don’t vote.
Typically, general elections in Fernandina Beach draw about 7,000 to 8,000 voters. And then if there’s a runoff, that vote falls to a couple thousand. Should two thousand people decide who calls the shots in Fernandina Beach, population 14,500?
Do you honestly think that question doesn’t matter?