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Athens County voter turnout was low compared previous years

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Athens County Board of Elections. File Photo by Morgan McCarthy.

Following last week’s election, former Independent mayoral candidate Damon Krane attributed his landslide loss to Athens Democratic Mayor Steve Patterson to low voter turnout in the county.

“(Turnout was) much lower than I expected it to be,” Krane told The New Political in a phone interview on election night.

Though it’s unclear how many people planned to vote last Tuesday and ultimately chose not to, voter turnout in Athens County generally appeared to be low compared to odd election years — when most positions on the ballot are local. Voter turnout in Athens County last week was 25.79%.

However, it is complicated to assess whether voter turnout was low specifically in this year’s mayoral election.

Mayoral Election Turnout:

In Athens city, there were a total of 2,646 votes counted in this year’s mayoral election, according to documents provided by the Athens County Board of Elections. In 2015 — the city’s last mayoral election —  2,511 votes were counted.

In this year’s mayoral election, a total of 98 votes were not counted because of unclear marking or having more than one candidate selected. In 2015, that number was 866, according to the Athens County Board of Elections. So, there were technically fewer votes cast than in the previous mayoral race, by a margin of 633 votes.

Voter turnout was even higher in the 2011 mayoral election. When former Athens mayor Democrat Paul Wiehl ran against Republican Randy Morris, 33.31% of registered voters in the county cast ballots.

City Council Election Turnout:

A trend of lower voter turnout was also true for this year’s City Council elections. Last week, 7,136 votes were cast for the At-Large seats on the council. Democrats Sarah Grace, Peter Kotses and Beth Clodfelter defeated Independents Ellie Hamrick, Chris Monday and incumbent Pat McGee.  

Comparatively, 7,377 votes were cast for the at-large seats in 2015 — a 201 vote difference.

Each voter had the option to pick up to three At-Large candidates. Should they choose more than one, each individual selection will be counted toward the total vote count on the Athens County Board of Elections’ master sheet.

County-Wide Turnout:

Athens County also experienced low voter turnout this year. In this year’s election, 10,553 voters cast a ballot, which makes up 25.79% of all registered voters in the county.

In 2017, 12,158 voters cast a ballot, making up 26.92% of voters. This is only a 1.13% decline in off-year voters in Athens County. 

But in 2015, 14,110 voters cast a ballot in Athens County — a total of 36.82% of registered voters. That’s over an 11% difference in voter turnout when compared to 2019.

It comes without surprise that voter turnout skyrocketed in 2016 and 2018, the respective years of the last presidential, congressional and gubernatorial elections. In 2016, 66.51% of registered voters in Athens County showed up to the polls, but only 51.12% cast ballots in 2018. 

It’s unclear why there was a dip in this year’s mayoral election compared to in 2015 when Patterson ran unopposed.

Below is a list of total voter turnout in the county during past elections, according to the Athens County Board of Elections:

2019: 

Registered Voters: 40,919 

Ballots Cast: 10,553 

Voter Turnout: 25.79%

2018: 

Registered Voters: 45,318

Ballots Cast: 23,167

Voter Turnout: 51.12%

2017: 

Registered Voters: 45,165 

Ballots Cast: 12,158

Voter Turnout: 26.92% 

2016: 

Registered Voters: 45,418

Ballots Cast: 30,042

Voter Turnout: 66.15%

2015: 

Registered Voters: 38,319

Ballots Cast: 14,110

Voter Turnout: 36.82% 

2014:

Registered Voters: 43,737

Ballots Cast: 14,863

Voter Turnout: 33.98% 

2013: 

Registered Voters: 44,024

Ballots Cast: 7,758

Voter Turnout: 17.62% 

2012: 

Registered Voters: 47,858

Ballots Cast: 28,008

Voter Turnout: 58.52% 

2011: 

Registered Voters: 49,726 

Ballots Cast: 16,566

Voter Turnout: 33.31%

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