Congratulations to Ann Williamson-Morrison, winner of Tuesday’s runoff election for the Ward 5 seat on the Rock Hill City Council. She defeated Nikita Jackson by 50 votes.
While the margin might be small, considering the fact that only 488 voters cast ballots in the runoff, it was a significant victory. The total was slightly higher than the 423 voters who cast ballots in the Oct. 15 general election, but turnout was anemic in both races.
It is standard for editorial pages to urge voters to go to the polls on election day. And it’s also standard for them to complain when they don’t.
And it must be said that, when only 488 out of War 5’s more than 7,000 voters bother to cast ballots in an important runoff, we worry about complacency and lack of interest on the part of the constituents of that district. In the Northside precinct, only four people voted; in the Highland Park precinct, no one voted.
But Ward 5 is not alone. We could cite numerous examples of low turnout for other elections in other wards and other precincts around the city.
What many of these elections have in common is that they are off-year elections, not held in conjunction with other elections at the school district, county, state or national levels. So, perhaps instead of just complaining about low voter turnout, concerned citizens could start lobbying for changing the day on which local elections are held.
Election Day is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even-numbered years. That’s when South Carolina’s state elections and national elections are held, and that’s when voters traditionally flock to the polls, when high-profile races pique their interest.
We’d like to see local elections held on Election Day as well. This would require a change in state law, but it is the one simple thing lawmakers could do to encourage higher turnout. And if local elections can’t be held on Election Day, they at least should be held in even-numbered years when other campaigns are in progress.
We realize that a variety of reasons contribute to low turnout. Locally, districts have been frequently reconfigured, so some voters aren’t sure what ward they are in or where they should go to vote.
We also realize that despite these problems, people need to vote anyway. Voters could have been in and out of the voting booth Tuesday in about three minutes. And this vote determined who will represent them on the City Council for at least the next four years.
We are grateful that three qualified candidates – Williamson-Morrison, Jackson and Mildred Moore, who finished a close third in the Oct. 15 election – were willing to devote the time and effort to campaign for office, offering to serve their constituents and the city at large. They deserve our appreciation.
They also deserved higher voter turnout at the polls. While changing the date for local elections is a longshot, we think it is worth considering.