Recently a few of us Fayette County voters (5,783) got together and voted on whether to give our county and cities another $100 million-plus in funds to spend on things such as upgrades to fire engines and more importantly, world class pickleball facilities.
Sadly less than 7% of eligible voters had any say in this off-off-cycle election, although the Peachtree City social media wizards assured us that nearly 4 out of 5 voters did vote yes.
As some may remember, I was chairman of the citizen’s ESPLOST committee in 2008, 2012, and 2017. Each was successful, with the first two during presidential elections with over 56,000 voters making the decision each time. The percentage was closer to 51% yes, but the percentage of registered voters deciding was closer to 70% not 7%. In 2017, the vote was placed between presidential (2016) and gubernatorial (2018) and had approximately 11,000 voters with a 63.84% yes.
Our county and cities had a SPLOST vote in 2009 with approximately 11,000 voters with over 75% no vote. Since then, they have been a little more creative with the scheduling where 8,418 voted in 2017 (69% yes) and this year with 5,783 voting in March.
Unfortunately, our county has decided to copy those in other areas that seek not as much participation but rather to gain a result that has the appearance of a mandate; after all, four out of five ain’t bad.
Some will argue that people who are not properly informed will vote no. That might be true, but that should motivate our leaders and their supporters to make sure people have the information to vote yes.
I can remember providing hardware costs for the “classroom of tomorrow” on the old Citizen blogs which was a world before Facebook. I will always be proud of the five school board members who put the initial ESPLOST question on the ballot with a contested Presidential election and then the subsequent renewal in the next Presidential election.
No one can accuse me of being anti-tax or anti-SPLOST/ESPSLOST as these pages are full of my own words advocating for them when the cause is just.
However, I wonder if we are not going to attempt to maximize participation by making these votes coincide with other general or primary elections, then why not give our elected leaders the authority to levy or continue the tax instead of putting on a show election to claim the voters made a choice? Then the voters can make the decision on our leaders who did or did not impose the tax and measure the results.
Peachtree City, Ga.