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Don’t blame the voters

September 19, 2009
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington has bemoaned Tuesday's voter turnout for the primary election as "pathetically low."

With the Cape turnout weighing in at around 9 percent, she is correct.

The only surprise is that Ms. Harrington continues to express surprise that the odd-year election cycle she has forced upon Lee County's municipalities is a failure.

Yes, a failure, and not on the part of the voters who continue to set the statewide standard in terms of turnout in traditional election years when people are, well, used to voting.

What Ms. Harrington refuses to accept is that hers is a service department and that her "customers" - i.e. voters - expect service based on their expectations and habits, not the election office's purported needs. That expectation is, as recent election history here in Lee County tells us, a comprehensive ballot in the fall of even years.

Despite the "pathetic" numbers Tuesday, Cape voters have continued to turn out en masse in the regular election years, those years when federal, state, county and most local elections - except for the municipal - are on the ballot. Countywide turnout in the General Election of November 2008, for example,was 80 percent, among the highest in the state.

Now Ms. Harrington's argument has been that adding municipal races back to these even-year ballots as she has been repeatedly asked to do would make those ballots time-consuming for her office to count on election night.


But her argument makes as much sense as trying to re-schedule Christmas to July because it's difficult for the stores to accommodate the crowds in December -and her attempt at changing voter habits has been about as successful as that holiday shakeup would be.

Albert Einstein said it best - insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

It's time to bring some reason back into the municipal election cycle. Give the voters what they want, what they are used to, a return to even-year ballots with virtually every other race and initiative.

Or stop pretending that voter turnout - or the voters themselves - matter to the Supervisor of Elections Office. Ms. Harrington simply cannot have it both ways.

- Breeze editorial



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