On my way into a grocery story this week, I noticed a sedan with its blinkers on, waiting for an elderly man to vacate the spot next to a handicapped spot. The spot was right in front of the automatic doors — a real find. Congratulations were in order.
But just because I’m a judgmental son of a gun, I imagined that the person behind the wheel was one of the 90% of Palm Coast’s registered voters who decided not to vote in the mayor primary Sept. 13 because it was too much trouble.
And yet here was the driver, wasting more time and energy on securing a parking spot than it would have required to park at the library, flash a driver’s license, fill in two bubbles, and walk out.
I had a similar thought at the gas station recently. Truck pulls up. Man walks inside. Buys $2 soda. Walks out. Drives away. Essentially, that’s the same amount of time and energy required to vote, but voting is $2 cheaper.
The turnout was so bad that I heard several reports of residents parking at the library and walking right past the door to the early voting location (where there was a line of about negative-three people) and saying things like, “No, thanks, I’m just here to check out some books.” Because they were already at the doors, for these people, voting would have required the same time and energy as taking a sip from a drinking fountain, and yet they still declined.
Who am I to judge? Maybe they suffered from violence at the polls years ago and still had nightmares. Maybe they were allergic.
But, it’s tempting to say the low voter turnout reveals that Palm Coast is a city of apathetic parking-space trollers. It’s a travesty of a sham of a mockery, to paraphrase Woody Allen. (As a side note, couldn’t you imagine Woody Allen living in the C-section?)
I figured that if anyone would have an opinion, it would be the man who won. I called Jon Netts. He suggested residents who didn’t vote might be apathetic; or, they might feel voting was futile and wouldn’t change anything in their lives in the short term.
“I can give you a very self-serving answer,” he said. “When people are relatively satisfied with the way things are going, there’s no pressure, no sense of urgency to get out and change things.”
But based on the outcry at City Council budget meetings, can this really be true?
Is the tea party relevant?
The most vocal sector of Palm Coast voters has been the Flagler County Tea Party. Chairman Tom Lawrence said that of the 1,100 addresses and phone numbers on the rolls, about 750 are in Palm Coast. He estimates that each address represents two members. So, there might be 1,500 Palm Coast tea partyers.
Before the primary, 200 tea partyers participated in an online poll, with just 34% voting for Netts (59% voted for Ericksen). Lawrence said at the time, “I think that this could very well be representative of the voting population, particularly if they turn out.”
Instead, the results were the opposite of this small sample of tea partyers, with Netts winning easily, 54% to Ericksen’s 40%.
Is the tea party relevant? Without more solidarity among tea party members, maybe not. If they were to unite behind a single candidate (more so than 59%), they might become a stronger force.
Lawrence acknowledged that the tea party sprang to life to protest the excesses in the federal government, not on the local level. However, he said the tea party has created a instilled sense of accountability in county and city officials, who know they’ll have to answer for any frivolous spending. And he might be right that the pressure from the tea party resulted in elected officials keeping tax rates lower than they might have.
But, as far as the turnout, Lawrence came to the same conclusion Netts did.
Lawrence said: “Most are pretty happy with what’s going on at the city and chose not to get involved.”
That sounds like good news for Holsey Moorman, who is the only incumbent running in the November election. His opponent is Bill McGuire. Dennis Cross and Jason DeLorenzo are the opponents in the other race.
That’s right, you heard it here first: There is another election in November, in Palm Coast. Let’s show our civic pride and see if we can’t hit 11% turnout this time!