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Low turnout givestiny vote victories

Low voter turnout was a factor Tuesday when two incumbent leaders kept their seats on the City Council.

It was a close election that saw fewer than 9 percent of the registered voters casting ballots.

Bob Matthews had 631 votes, or 75 more than John Counts' 556 votes. Counts was only 47 votes ahead of second-time candidate Patricia Plantamura's 509 votes. Former Seminole council member Trina Watkins trailed the field with 421 votes. The two top vote-getters won seats on the council.

Counts said he believed that Plantamura almost upset him because he ran such a low-key campaign. He did not send out absentee ballots nor did he go door to door. He relied mostly on mailed information.

A key ingredient in his success, he said, was the city itself. Seminole, he said, is well run and has few polarizing issues that prompt voters to throw the rascals out. And, he said, the voter turnout was low — 8.93 percent of Seminole's 12,939 registered voters. That's the lowest the turnout has been since 2002, when only 7.74 percent of the registered voters turned out.

"It's a lack of interest in municipal elections," Counts said. "There's nothing exciting about municipal elections for a lot of people."

That's ironic, he said, because what happens at the local level has a much bigger impact on people's daily lives than what happens in Washington, D.C. Yet, he said, many more people vote in national elections.

That might be because of the publicity and attention the media pay to those issues, he said.

Counts said city officials have talked about moving the Seminole election to November, but the idea, which voters would have to approve, never got traction. It would have been good, he said, to hold the presidential primary and the city election on the same day.

Matthews agreed that the turnout was disappointing. The city, he said, needs to do something more to get the word out to people about municipal elections, where to vote and when.

"We need to come up with a plan so we can better communicate (with people)," he said.

20 years of light voter turnouts

Turnout for municipal elections is notoriously low. Here's a 20-year history of the turnout for Seminole's city elections.

Date of electionNumber of registered votersNumber who votedPercentage of turnout
March 1, 19884,81052410.89 percent
March 7, 19895,94785014.29 percent
Dec. 12, 19895,3433025.65 percent*
Dec. 12, 198928113146.62 percent*
Dec. 12, 19891518354.97 percent*
Dec. 12, 19891,26862849.53 percent*
Dec. 12, 198998137738.43 percent*
March 6, 19905,6705098.98 percent
March 3, 19925,5811,22221.90 percent
March 2, 19936,12996315.71 percent
March 1, 19945,58874413.31 percent
March 7, 19956,3101,54924.55 percent
March 5, 19966,58269710.59 percent
March 3, 19986,96969710 percent
March 2, 19996,81185112.49 percent
April 20, 1999887079.55 percent**
Sept. 14, 19996,9114816.96 percent***
June 13, 20003,1131,51048.51 percent**
Jan. 23, 200183045254.46 percent**
March 6, 200110,0529949.89 percent
August 7, 200145528462.42 percent**
March 5, 200210,2687957.74 percent
March 4, 200311,9601,39811.69 percent
Aug. 26, 20037,6563,58646.84 percent**
March 8, 200512,4001,1449.23 percent
March 14, 200612,999 1,33010.2 percent
March 13, 200713,0752,55919.6 percent
March 11, 200812,9391,1568.93 percent****
*Annexation referendum. City voters and each area annexed voted separately and results were tallied individually. **Annexation referendum ***Referendum ****Unofficial numbers Source: Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections

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Low turnout givestiny vote victories 03/15/08 [Last modified: Saturday, March 15, 2008 10:03pm]
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