Dear 15%: Come on in With the Rest of Us!

By Mike Phillips

Observer Editor

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?

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Mark Tomes
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
1 year ago

Good point, Mike. I voted in every race, but some it almost seemed like a tossup. One thing that would help would be to have more townhall-type debates. Candidate statements and many interviews result in vague statements that really don’t discern the differences between candidates. We need more robust discussions of important issues so we can tell who to vote for. Also, having a digest of judges’ opinions in important cases might help us know which judges to keep in or to kick out.

1 year ago

Voters should be informed, but the reality is many people simple are not. Personally my thinking is if you know nothing about particular candidates on the ballet, the correct decision is to skip that vote. And your correct to ask people to get more informed in the future but there is good reason for not entering a opposed to just voting party line or making a guess.