Columbia’s 4 percent election turnout

Turnout at the city council debate last week.

Turnout at the city council debate last week.

I got this email from Joe Azar today:

Many, many thanks to all of you that supported me in the city council election. I greatly appreciate it and hopefully the concepts and ideas I promoted will be enacted by council.

Maybe one day we can get Columbia moving in a responsible and intelligent way, but it will not happen until people care, analyze, and vote. With only 5250 voting out of a city of 130,000, it is a herculean job to provide progress in a city that seemingly does not care.

What is the answer? I surely would like to know as I have cared greatly for our city all of my life.

Again, THANK YOU!!! You are wonderful!

Joseph Azar

Folks, my calculator says 5,250 out of 130,000 is 4 percent.

Yeah, I get it — it was a low-suspense election. Joe had no chance against Tameika, and Chris Sullivan was punching above his weight against the veteran Sam Davis. Everybody “knew” that, the way people know things that are obviously true (until they aren’t). You know, like “There’s no way a lunatic like Donald Trump could be elected president of the United States.”

I bought into the same conventional wisdom. Rather than the Community Relations Council (upon which I serve) using resources to sponsor its own candidate forum, I suggested we co-sponsor the one the Chamber was doing — which we did, and I moderated. Two years ago, the CRC’s city council debate drew a packed house. This time, I was pretty sure that wouldn’t happen, and I was right. But I applaud the Chamber and the Building Industry Association (and the CRC) for staging a debate anyway. I mean, it was an actual election that would elect actual council members to help run the city. We should act like it, and provide opportunities for voters to learn more about the candidates, whether they show or not.

But here’s the thing about conventional wisdom…

Tameika Isaac Devine won by getting 3,583 votes to 1,638 for Joe Azar. So if he had identified just 1,945 voters and turned them out, he’d be replacing her on the council. Even though it would have meant getting more than double what he got, that’s not insurmountable with some organization. We’re talking about a city of 130,000, remember.

Chris Sullivan only needed 632 votes, although from a smaller pool.

Maybe they couldn’t have done it. Maybe a 2-1 margin can’t be overcome.

But it’s possible, because the numbers involved are so small

Of course, the big question here is, what will it take to get both voters and strong candidates to care more about Columbia city government?

The much larger crowd in 2015.

The packed house in 2015.

3 thoughts on “Columbia’s 4 percent election turnout

  1. Claus2

    After years of witnessing the actions of the Columbia City Council, most people figured why bother… there’s no fixing it now. Just let those in power keep taking in more rope and sooner or later they’ll hang themselves. Columbia gets what it deserves.

  2. Ralph Hightower

    The perennial mayoral candidate Azar lost again?
    Well, at least Chapin voters sent incumbent mayor, Skip Wilson, packing. He placed second while I was hoping that he placed a distant third. Wilson wanted to impose a two cent meal tax in Chapin so he could do his grand plans to build parks and sidewalks in Chapin. If the subdivisions wanted sidewalks, the builders would have put in sidewalks with the streets.
    If I could’ve voted in the Chapin election, I would have, but I live outside the town limits and don’t want to pay Chapin taxes.

    1. Barry

      You are in the minority. I know 3 families from just my church that chose to move to Chapin in the last 6 months ( a move of some 35 miles on average). Every time I go visit, there are new houses going up, or people moving in.

      And no, a small meal tax doesn’t keep diners away. That is hogwash and flat out untrue.


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