It is not often we can praise our community for high voter turnout.
This year, we can.
Voter turnout in Lowndes County and in the state of Georgia has been impressive, mirroring the nation.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his office, along with elections offices across Georgia, are commended for promoting mail-in balloting and building out the necessary infrastructure with a new online portal for requesting and tracking your ballot.
In-person early voting was handled extremely well, and even though there were snafus here and there, it was mostly due to unprecedented turnout in metro areas of the state.
We have been dismayed by the numbers of voters not wearing protective face masks and the lack of social distancing, with people putting themselves, their families and the people around them in the voting lines at-risk. There is really no excuse for that kind of thoughtless and reckless behavior.
Still, elections staff and poll workers were patient, worked long hours, helped to safeguard the election, all while wearing their masks and being courteous to the public, from what we have seen and heard.
Whether you chose to mail your ballot, drop it off in the collection box, vote in person, vote early or vote on Election Day, we commend all of you who turned out.
The act of voting, the fundamental function of democracy, is even more important than the eventual outcome of any election.
The more people that vote, the more we can have confidence that the outcome of an election represents the will of the people.
Whether or not you like the eventual outcome, you should all feel good about voter participation.
We would be remiss, however, if we did not also say that this marquee, historic, national election for the next President of the United States is an anomaly when it comes to voter turnout in our community.
It should not take a controversial presidential election to get people to the polls.
It is at the local level that elections impact our daily lives the most.
We should be totally ashamed of ourselves when we look at the abysmal turnout when we have local elections without a presidential race on the ballot. We have seen school board, county commission and city council races where the percentage of turnout was in the single digits.
That kind of turnout is inexplicable and unacceptable.
Boards of education help shape your children’s future. County commissions make decisions about local taxes and infrastructure improvements. City councils may vote on rezoning your neighborhood or regulating local businesses. These are all very real world, relevant decisions and only a handful of us determine who makes those decisions because the vast majority of registered voters do not participate in local elections.
Turnout for this election has shown that we can do better. Now, we must do better.