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Turnout continues to lag in Hall County, only 9 percent Tuesday
Numbers low over time in off-year elections
Hall County Elections Poll Officer Denese Stringer, left, hands Rashelle Edwards two express polls Tuesday night as the elections office stays busy collecting equipment and data following the day's election.

SPLOST voter turnouts

Recent Hall County voter turnout in special purpose local option sales tax referendums:

2015 E-SPLOST: 9.3 percent

2015 SPLOST VII: 6.5 percent

2011 E-SPLOST IV: 8.3 percent

2009 SPLOST VI: 9.3 percent

Voter turnout in local elections continues to be poor across Hall County.

Just 9.31 percent of voters, or 6,932 of 74,489 registered voters, cast ballots in Tuesday’s elections.

In March, just 6.5 percent of registered voters decided the fate of a 1 percent sales tax to fund countywide infrastructure projects.

In starker terms, only about 5,400 of 83,000 registered voters in a county of 187,745 cast ballots in the SPLOST VII referendum. The tax passed 63.5 percent to 36.5 percent.

Local government officials have long lamented voter apathy, particularly in election years when the White House is not at stake.

And the laments continued Tuesday as turnout numbers leaked, with Mayor Danny Dunagan acknowledging at a City Council meeting late in the day that residents still had time to make it to the polls.

Sometimes weather has a hand in turnout, and the skies were dark Tuesday. Recent changes to polling site locations also may have had an impact.

Turnout in East Hall, for example, was poor and some voters said they were confused about where to vote.

“Voter registration cards were mailed mid-October,” Hall County Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee said. “There are many that were returned undeliverable by the U.S. Postal Service.”

Sosebee added that signs were placed at polling sites to inform voters about the changes, as well.

“Any voter who has contacted our office ... concerning location changes have been directed appropriately,” Sosebee said.

Zack Thompson, who won his race for the Ward 2 seat on the Gainesville City Council, said he was disappointed in the turnout despite winning.

He had hoped that competitive races for two council seats and several candidate debates would have spurred more involvement.

“It surprises me because of all the interaction with voters,” Thompson added. “I would have assumed the turnout would have been higher.”

Local officials seem to be at loss for what they can do to motivate residents to vote.

Gainesville Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras, who is retiring at the end of the year, sounded exasperated by the numbers.

“If you’re willing to be governed by one-tenth of the population, well, that’s life,” she said.