Abysmal voter turnout in Southampton County

Published 5:04 pm Friday, July 1, 2016

Those who run for local offices are making a serious commitment to our community. If elected, they will spend hours upon hours at meetings, workshops, conferences and public functions representing their constituents. They will also have numerous responsibilities for which they will be held accountable if something goes awry.

We should be thankful that candidates like state senator Donald McEachin and Ella Ward stepped forward to represent the recently redrawn 4th Congressional District that was left vacant by incumbent congressman Randy Forbes, who sought the Republican nomination for Congress in Virginia’s 2nd District.

The least the residents of Southampton County could have done to return the favor was get informed about the candidates and cast their vote.

Secretary of the Southampton County Electoral Board Bob Felts shared on Monday the voter turnout numbers, which were nothing short of disappointing. Of the 12,304 registered voters in Southampton County, only 468 voted during the June 14 elections. Four-hundred sixty-eight people — or 3.8 percent of those who could vote — took five minutes of their time to stop by their local precinct and make their voice heard.

We don’t know the exact reasons for such low turnout. Maybe it was a foregone conclusion who would take the seat; McEachin garnered roughly 75 percent of the votes in the 4th District, which consists of the cities of Chesapeake, Colonial Heights, Emporia, Hopewell, Petersburg, Richmond and Suffolk and the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Greensville, Henrico, Prince George, Southampton, Surry and Sussex. Maybe it was the fact that so many had hitched their wagons to Forbes.

What we do know is that democracy becomes dysfunctional when citizens don’t get involved.

It’s time that the voters in Southampton County reverse this disconcerting course of apathy toward elections. In a place such as this, it’s easier to voice your opinions and concerns and more likely that they are heard by those in charge. Why not take the opportunity to be that one vote that makes a difference?