Turnout was the difference
The Tea Party is bemoaning that Jim Sides, chair of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, lost his re-election effort, arguing that voter turnout was low.
Four years ago, even with the rise of the Tea Party, voter turnout was lower.
In 2010, voter turnout for the primary was 15.4 percent. This year, it was 17.9 percent. In 2010, 13,851 people voted in Rowan County. This year, 16,353 people voted, more than 2,500 more compared to four years ago.
In 2010, Jim Sides received 3.655 votes, running second to Jon Barber. This year, in a heated campaign in which he was viewed as the front runner, Chairman Sides received 3,898 votes, or 243 votes more than he received four years ago. However, with so many more people voting, he came in fifth out of a field of eight and won only 11.8 percent of the votes cast, less than the necessary 13.3 percent to seek a runoff.
Four years ago, a total of 25,894 votes were cast for candidates in the Republican county commission primary. This year, there were 33,133 votes in the Republican primary. More than 7,000 more votes were cast this year. People care.
In 2012, Craig Pierce and Mike Caskey came in third and fourth in the Republican commissioner primary but had sufficient votes to seek a runoff. They won the runoff with fewer than 3,000 votes, or almost 2,000 fewer votes than they had in the primary. They won the runoff with only 8 percent of registered voters participating.
The Tea Party also blames its losses this year on voters changing their registration from Democrat to unaffiliated. Less than 500 Democrats changed. It blames La Resistance, which made a lot of noise but has fewer than 200 people on its Facebook site, and 80 percent of that noise was made by 20 percent of them. The Tea Party often has 200 people at its meetings and has made a lot of noise over the past four years.
all the people of Rowan County. People care about government, particularly when it is not doing what they want it to do. Voters weren’t happy, so almost 20 percent more went to the polls.
Since the Tea Party took over the County Commission two years ago, it has made some big decisions: reversed course on the central school office, purchased the mall for too much and reduced the tax base, displayed open hostility to new business development, engaged in litigation with the school board and citizens offended by sectarian public prayer, avoided while criticizing the press (while “leaking” to an unabashedly biased blog with no journalistic standards) and created open and constant warfare on numerous fronts with Salisbury (which is almost 10 times larger than any other municipality in the county and is the largest contributor to the county tax base).
During the tenure of this Commission, despite the geographic advantages Rowan County enjoys, unemployment remained higher than the state average. Rowan was the only county along the I-85 corridor to lose population. Few new jobs have been created because business is nervous about investing in an unstable and volatile political climate. Poverty has risen and costs more every day whether in the form of increased costs to the schools or more public assistance or higher unemployment costs or lower tax collections or more crime.
(By the way, why will voters approve bonds and taxes to build a new jail but not a new school, the latter solves the problem causing the need for the former?)
New voting laws scheduled to take effect in 2016 are designed to restrict voting rights. Turnout is likely to decline in four years. Although the Tea Party complained about low voter turnout in this year’s election, it appears that what it really believes is that winning is easier with fewer voters.
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