Voter turnout nothing to be very proud of

The percentages of eligible voters who showed up at the polls on Tuesday were abysmal in Jefferson County.

Overall only 17.52 percent, or 8,723 voters, cast ballots out of 49,783 registered voters eligible.

There was a countywide issue in the Jefferson County JVS levy, so there was reason to be at the polls at all 76 precincts in the county, even if, as was the case in many places, it was the only issue or candidate decision to be made.

As it was, the range of eligible voters to cast ballots ran from a low of just 9.2 percent choosing Steubenville’s 2nd Ward council member (207 total votes out of an eligible 2,240); to a high of 28 percent making a decision on electricity aggregation in Mingo Junction (709 total votes out of an eligible 2,531).

It’s easy to decry government officials, to complain that adequate representation isn’t offered, that government doesn’t listen to the will of the people. It’s harder to do so when less than a majority of people are making decisions at the polls for entire communities.

Consider that in the 2nd Ward of Steubenville, just 124 votes were cast in favor of the winner. Of the votes cast, that represents a 60.78 percent winning total, but of the total eligible voters in the ward, that represents just 5.5 percent of ward residents choosing their council member.

That means most voters, 94.5 percent, didn’t bother, didn’t care or wanted the other candidate (who had 80 votes, or 3.57 percent of all eligible ward voters).

All the school levies in the county, JVS, Indian Creek and Buckeye Local, failed, all with less than 30 percent of eligible voters bothering to cast a ballot. People who were motivated to keep their taxes at current levels went to the polls. Some people motivated by the stated needs for schoolchildren cast their ballots. Everyone else was indifferent, unmoved or simply to the point where they don’t consider voting worth it anymore.

Citizens say they’re starved for leadership from the city hall to Capitol Hill. Even when presented the opportunity to make direct decisions on their own governance, the kind that reaches into their wallet, voters stay away.

Someone somewhere will decry during the next cycle the amount of money spent by national parties and state parties and political action committees in state and national elections, as well as the amount spent by local candidates on countywide races at times. But, it’s obvious that absent the pervasive, often negative, push of marketing, issues and candidates don’t gather a lot of the kind of attention that motivates citizens to vote. Being a good citizen apparently isn’t enough without big bucks campaigning.

And that’s a sad day for local communities and school districts, where the majority does not even come close to ruling the day.