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Jon Netts, The 5% Mayor: Election Turnout Was Lowest By Far in City’s 11-Year History

| September 14, 2011

Palm Coast's election turnout, 1999-2011. Click on the graph for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Jon Nets was re-elected Palm Coast mayor Tuesday by 2,848 voters out of a registered voter pool of 49,574. That means just 5.7 percent of Palm Coast’s registered voters decided the race in his favor. The proportion is actually smaller when all eligible voting-age residents of the city are included: there are 75,000 residents in Palm Coast, 61,000 of them of voting age, though for one reason or another, almost 20 percent of them are not registered to vote.

In essence, just 4.7 percent of Palm Coast’s eligible-voter population elected Jon Netts mayor, making it difficult for Netts to claim that he has any kind of mandate (he didn’t, when asked about it after the election results were announced, saying only that a majority had spoken).

Challenger Charlie Ericksen drew 2,145 votes, or 41 percent, and Joe Cunnane drew 253 votes, or just under 5 percent of those who cast a ballot.

The overall turnout was 10.6 percent. That’s the lowest turnout in Palm Coast’s history, and it’s worse than Flagler Beach‘s or Bunnell’s recent municipal elections, though until Tuesday, Bunnell was the county’s reigning champion of indifference at election time. Palm Coast now wears that crown of shrugs. The city has held 11 elections going back to Sept. 21, 1999, when the referendum for incorporation drew the heaviest turnout by far: 61 percent of registered voters, back when the city had 18,900 registered voters. It’s been mostly downhill since then.

The city’s first primary election, in November 1999, drew a 49 percent turnout. The general election a month later drew 46 percent. None of the elections have come close to even that half-way mark since then. The seven elections since, and until Tuesday, averaged a turnout of 18.6 percent between them, with the highest turnout (28 percent) going to the general election in November 2005, and the lowest that same year, a month earlier (13 percent).

It appears unquestionable that Palm Coast’s desire to single itself out by having elections in off-off years, meaning in years when there are neither presidential nor congressional elections, has not had the desired effect of focusing more attention on those municipal elections. If anything, it has made them more irrelevant.

A majority of 87 percent of voters on Tuesday passed a referendum that would change Palm Coast’s elections to coincide with even years. Netts had opposed the referendum previously, even though it is intended to save money (by combining the city’s balloting with all other elections). Netts had argued that the city should keep its distinction with off-off-years. But late Tuesday evening, after the vote, he appeared ready to change his mind in light of the very low turnout.

Asked to interpret that turnout, Netts prefaced his answer by saying that it would inevitably be self-serving: he said that when people are generally happy with the state of things, they stay home rather than come out to vote. Anger draws them out to the ballot box. That anger was not apparent in Tuesday’s turnout, he said.

On the other hand, interviews with voters on Tuesday showed that, at least among those voting for Ericksen, the anger against Netts was a motivator—which paradoxically proves and disproves Netts’ point at the same time: anger did draw out some voters, but clearly the anger was not at such a pitch that it made a difference in the final outcome.

Ericksen had a different interpretation. “The smaller the representation, the less likely it’s to reflect the opinion of the majority,” he said. “I think we could have done a better job to communicate it through other media. I don’t think sending an insert with utility bills was adequate, because most people get their bills through the Internet. I am just amazed at the number of people that just didn’t know there was an election. A new question has come up now, five people today thought this was just the primary and the winner would go on to the general election. So it’s poor communication but it’s also the population not asking or seeking more information”

For the first time in a Palm Coast election, voting took place at six “consolidated” locations where any registered voter could vote. In other words voting locations were not defined by the voter’s residential address. That, too, was supposed to save money—and encourage people to vote at the most convenient place, whether nearer to home or work or shopping. It didn’t work out that way, though 1,700 voters took part in early voting—a third of those who voted.

“Any time you change the rules with an older group of people there’s going to be misunderstanding, and you have to communicate even heavier,” Ericksen said.

The municipal election also suffered a few setbacks along the way, beginning with the city administration’s belated attempt to catch up with redistricting, followed by an embarrassing couple of rounds of actual redistricting–which did not affect the mayoral election but did cast an unseemly light on the city’s process–followed by a few weeks of confusion over whose elections would be held when, depending on how many candidates qualified. There are still two council seats to be decided. That election, again featuring the six voting locations, will be held on Nov. 8.

Kimberle Weeks, the supervisor of elections, was asked to what she attributed the low turnout. “This question could be better be answered by asking the voters,” she wrote. (Weeks answered several questions by email, as she prefers not to do voice interviews). She described the consolidated locations as “an added convenience” that did not appear, from her visits to polling sites on election day, to create any confusion. “I visited each and every voting location and did not hear of or witness any complaints regarding the six open voting locations,” Weeks wrote.


She was not inclined to see lack of information as a factor in the low turn-out. “The city made many of the decisions pertaining to this election such as where to hold early voting, how long to hold early voting, how many voting locations to open, and which voting locations to open,” Weeks said. “The city clerk qualified the candidates, and advertised for this election, as we did. We worked very closely together to ensure a smooth successful election. A lot of signage was placed out on election day to let the voters know there was an election in progress, our poll deputy at early voting invited those coming to the library to vote while they were there. Our website and newsletter, as well as the city’s website provided a wealth of information. WNZF radio made numerous announcements to inform the voters, and forums were advertised and held to inform the voters of the election and candidates seeking office. Candidate signs and supporters could hardly go unnoticed as they were all visible showing support of candidates.

That voters would be that lacking in information, if that was the case, is particularly striking this year, compared with, say, 2007, when that Palm Coast election drew almost 17 percent of the registered electorate. Since then, Palm Coast has seen the addition of several new media that have paid particular attention to the municipal election—WNZF, the radio station, The Observer, and FlaglerLive—not to mention the city’s own website and social networking (through Facebook), though the city’s YouTube video announcement of the election had drawn just 41 views by Sept. 14, a day after the election.

There was also the rise of the local tea party, whose membership of about 1,200 is primarily driven by elections. For all that, the turnout’s record-low mark may suggest that media’s influence, old or new, may be practically nil when it comes to generating interest in elections broader than among hard-core voting junkies, who’d be voting anyway. It’s entirely possible that added coverage is a turn-off, while political-coverage gimmickry such as polls only proved to underscore the unreliability of the numbers those polls generated: both a tea party poll, with 203 respondents, and a FlaglerLive poll, with 237 respondents, proved wildly off the mark: the tea party had Ericksen winning with 59 percent of the vote, the FlaglerLive poll had Ericksen winning with 51 percent.

The reasons behind Tuesday’s low turn-out may all be guesswork, but one fact remains: voters were simply not interested, whatever the reason, and a mayor was re-elected with the smallest majority of any Palm Coast mayor to date (Canfield’s was 69 percent in 1999 and 59 percent four years later; Netts’s majority in his first mayoral run was 64 percent), and certainly the smallest actual number of votes in a mayor’s favor in 11 years, yielding that less than rousing 5 percent endorsement.

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30 Responses for “Jon Netts, The 5% Mayor: Election Turnout Was Lowest By Far in City’s 11-Year History”

  1. John Smith says:

    Just goes to ahow that the INFAMOUS TEA PARTY has more of a bark than what they can put out there for fact and reason.

  2. Layla says:

    Low voter turnout always favors incumbents, which is why we are stuck with gridlock in Washington.

    It was to the Mayor’s advantage not to advertise this election. And I think Ms. Weeks will find there was a lot of confusion re those polling places.

    Most didn’t even know there was an election.

  3. Layla says:

    If this is to be norm in voter turnout, the city can save a lot of money by eliminating early voting to just 2-3 days and the polling places can be further consolidated.

    Use it or lose it.

  4. Job well done says:

    The Supervisor Of Elections and all involved did a great job! You certainly did your part.

  5. Shelly says:

    Election ? What Election ? Who’s Mayor ? What’s her name ?

  6. Jojo says:

    It’s the economy stupid. People are fed up with the whole political climate and are worried about their next meal and piss test.

  7. beachbum says:

    Typical display of APATHY.

    Wait until our beach disappears completely, and then see what your apathy gets you.

    But IF YOU CARE, find out how our beaches can be saved.
    THURSDAY, SEPT 15 AT 6PM
    http://www.saveflaglersbeach.com

  8. Cyd Weeks says:

    I spent quite some time at the library and was confused myself as to why so many people had NO clue there was an election going on. Quite a few of them thought it was a true primary and had no idea that the vote could actually determine who was going to be Mayor. It was very confusing to understand that a primary could actually be the election. Most other places do not have anything like that. I don’t know why we do here.

  9. Liana G says:

    Well poor people don’t vote, this is a good indicator of the income demographics of PC’s population – if we actually need another.

  10. PJ says:

    It’s amazing no one voted and the guy wins. All you Palm Coasters do not complain if you did not vote don’t complain. In fact remind your self that I should not complain or offer advice because I did not excercise my right. My right as an American to do something that our armed forces are dying in other countries just to help others in their democracy.

    You Palm Coasters should be ashamed of yourselves, ashamed that you did not do your civic duty and to excercise the right of only that of an American citizen can do here in the USA is VOTE.

    Are you all that lazy or can we blame kimberly Weeks that she fails again to motivate you lazy fools. who else can you blam? Let’s see Rick Scott, The Board of County Commissioners they don’t need any help there.

    . Hey what the heck let’s blam Bunnell just because they are next to us and there a bunch of crackers down there. Blame anyone you want to blam but realize this you let you next mayor become Mayor by just a selected few citizens that cared enouch to vote again 5%.

    Let’s blame Flagler Beach because they have a beach!

    So thank you 5% er’s thank you for proving that anything in Amarica is possiblle and just could not get any worse except you 95% er’s proved that it really can get worse and it just did!

  11. Riley says:

    Netts, the lesser of two evils! Certainly not a vote of confidence.

  12. Yogi says:

    Dear John Smith,
    Your quote below ;

    “Just goes to show that the INFAMOUS TEA PARTY has more of a bark than what they can put out there for fact and reason.”

    Both candidates filled out tea party question-ares. Both candidates got a vote of confidence from the tea party. Apparently not many that voted in the straw poll really worked hard to get the vote out for either candidate. If the tea party had not taken the time and effort you would have known less about where these candidates stood on the issues. What did you do to make the community aware of who these people were and what they stood for? What did you do to even make anyone aware there was an election?

  13. kmedley says:

    Job well done??!! Really! Confusion with the polling locations. Uncertainty with regards to the importance a primary can have. 5270 Total cards cast of 49574 registered voters. How many were from early voting and absentee? How many cards/votes were actually cast on election day? A 10.6% voter turnout, down from 16.8% in 2007. This isn’t the only election to experience a low voter turnout. The question should be which elected official is tasked with Voter Education and receives additional grant money to do just that?

  14. Jojo says:

    @PJ Maybe you don’t understand that people don’t even have gas money to go vote. Have these people created jobs for Palm Coast??? The Good Life in Palm Coast is for the select 5%?

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/09/15/jobless-claims-rise-again-428k-weekly-first-time-benefits-requests/

  15. Samantha Howell says:

    It’s pretty sad the voters have re-elected more of the same!! They need to get their head out of their posterior end! To bad they can’t have an intelligent thought on their own!! Netts and his henchman Landon lead a lot to be desired! Well all you people in Palm Coast deserve what your going to get MORE OF THE SAME!!!

  16. Gartor says:

    I didn’t vote, I DON’T want to vote….yes, I complain, doesn’t get me anywhere. I’m so disgusted with this county I don’t want to waste MY time or MY gas. I’ve never missed a election, guess there’s a first time for everything!

  17. PJ says:

    JoJo you are so right, and I can understand. Gartor the above commentor has the same feeling and I could not agree more.

  18. Jojo says:

    Thank you PJ, I’m honored.

  19. Layla says:

    To PJ and Gartor: Tell that to those military widows whose dead husbands have been fighting for your sorry asses and died for your right to sit back and not care about your country.

    We need to bring back the draft.

  20. PJ says:

    Layla,

    You did not read my post I honored those that died. My first cousin was the first 400 killed in Viet nam the war that was supposed to end in 60 days. Both my older brothers were in Viet Nam one was wounded. so read the post i’m all about our freedoms and love and respect the people that keep it that way.

    Now career politicians are another question. I can’t respect anyone who believes they should have their job for life. If anyone wants to do their civic duty then run for office give us your time and may be run again but to run and run and run is abuse of the system. Let another person with different ideas and values run and share their political views. That is the way we keep freedoms.

    Got this time Layla?

  21. Doug Chozianin says:

    IF YOU DON’T VOTE YOU GET WHAT YOU DESERVE!!!

  22. palmcoaster says:

    This is what we got in Daytona.
    I knew well these two, as were bird of a feather. I never liked them since I met them years ago. I was instrumental to get rid of them in our Condo Association in 2007. We have to keep a watchful eye in our elected one’s, as money talks big time and takes risk and guts to denounce them on wrong doing.
    http://www.news-journalonline.com/news/local/east-volusia/2011/09/16/former-south-daytona-officials-sentenced-to-prison-in-bribery-case.html

  23. palmcoaster says:

    Here is the reality that we are confronted in palm Coast now. Our neighbors in Matanzas Woods fighting for what ITT sold them as nearby vacant land for single family homes and now Mr.Tyner City of palm Coast Tyner denies that right going back to the plans before ITT that allowed multifamily homes.
    Sorry my spelling errors but this, we all need to know and support our Matanzas neighbors against the big bank lawyers and the pro developers in the Palm Coast Government. What the reelected mayor Netts and council have to say about this? One more grand father in rule from ITT, illegaly voided?

  24. mike says:

    I didnt even know there was a election. Never had any fliers or anything in the mail. Never seen it on the news. Was it a hush hush election? This was the first one I missed also……..

  25. Mona says:

    PalmCoaster: Those fighting the Sawgrass Villas developer need to get their group to the council meeting. This is outrageous. It is time to begin suing the city, if necessary, to stop these violations.

    I am totally serious about this. If the Mayor and Council are unwilling to listen, it is not to early to begin a recall election. Maybe they didn’t show up to vote, but they WILL sign a recall petition.

    Enough is enough, folks. Nobody who bought property here expected to be constantly fighting these developer issues. Developers have too much influence over this council and Mayor.

    You need to know that the council, chamber and builders will be doing everything possible to get DeLorenzo into that council seat in the upcoming election. He is already on the Planning Commission.

    This is outrageous.

  26. palmcoaster says:

    Mona I totally agree. Resident owners of Matanzas Woods wether backing the pathetic abandoned golf course or this vacant land, need to organize and also if necessary consult an out of Florida legal team on “contingency basis” aka lawyer gets paid if he wins case. As not only “your grand father in rule” given all the years after 1975 when ITT filed the Palm Coast Development Plans with the federal Trade Commission but all of us Palm Coasters grand father in amenities were illegally stripped from us all when ITT left and illegally sold those. Named; the Palm Harbor Gold Course that we recovered from Centex but had to foot 5 million to repair the neglecting damage done to it. Those 5 million should be refunded to the city by Centex. The illegal sale of “our Palm Coast Marina” and closure to the grand father in usage since opening by Palm Coasters. The illegal swap by the county of our public owned 16 blocks of ocean front to Ginn, for 300 acres in the bun docks and a check for $20,000 I think was to build the public small access to the beach, we have now. Those 16 blocks of ocean front land were also where our Players Club ocean front pool, cabanas and facilities were located and also grand father in rule for use well over 20 years by Palm Coaster’s were illegally violated by then County Commission. Ask George Hanns still a seating commissioner about it.
    We should all organize and contact an out of Florida legal team on this. In South Florida was done by victimized residents in a development and they won. Do we have here a RICO case in Palm Coast?

    2. A Developer’s Potential Liability under RICO. http://www.becker-poliakoff.com/pubs/articles/dehaan_e/dehaan_litigation_062904.pdf
    RICO is the acronym for “Racketeer Influences and Corrupt Organizations”. RICO derives
    from the Organized Crime Control, Act of 1970. Developers who deliberately make
    misrepresentations about a planned community in promotional literature sent via the United
    States mail, or who make misrepresentations pertaining to the planned community via telephone,
    radio or television, could find themselves subject to a RICO suit by disgruntled purchasers. If a
    RICO claim is successful, the plaintiff can be entitled to treble (triple) damages, costs of the suit,
    and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
    Also:
    3. A Developer’s Potential Liability Under The Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act
    The federal Land Sales Full Disclosure Act (“ILSFDA”) forbids the use of false,
    deceptive and misleading advertising claims made with regard to the unimproved subdivided
    lots offered for sale through means of interstate commerce. The ILSFDA permits purchasers to
    recover damages for actions deemed in violation with the requirements of the ILSFDA.
    II. LIABILITY

  27. palmcoaster says:

    Please forgive my miss digits above, as I am not a typist. Should have been Golf course not Gold. Just in case Bob E. critique comes around.
    Also I advise anyone contributing to charity funds raised by any of the tight circle elite in this county, better do a thorough follow up of those donations and funds raised as someone I knew well, never liked and was widely lauded and helped by the local elite finally was caught. Back then she used the last name, Christen.
    http://www.news-journalonline.com/news/local/flagler/2011/09/17/former-director-of-bunnell-abuse-shelter-charged-with-fraud.html

  28. palmcoaster says:

    @ Mona.
    This legal team has been successful in Florida so far. Maybe someone else may know a better one?
    We use them successfully on a contingency basis, for an insurance claim settlement originally denied.
    http://www.yellowpages.com/chicago-il/mip/childress-duffy-goldblatt-13960150
    http://www.childresslawyers.com/verdicts-and-settlements

    @ Mona, Matanzas residents and all Palm Coast residents, we the one’s that as well lost our amenities grand father in. I believe we have a case for a “class action” against all involved starting with ITT, Centex County and questioning the lack of reply from our City of Palm Coast to a request formally presented to this regard already as Pioneers said.
    C. Liability Of A Developer For Misrepresentations Concerning The Amenities
    In order to market a new development, developers will often focus their advertising
    efforts on the type of the amenities that the development will have. Amenities can consist of recreational
    amenities, such as tennis courts, picnic areas, and swimming pools, or more fundamental things such
    as water and sewer availability, parking lots, and roads. Home or unit buyers have a right to rely on
    representations made to them as to the quantity and quality of the amenities. Where a developer makes
    false promises as to type, quality, or quantity of amenities which will be available to residents of the
    development, this will entitle purchasers to sue the developer pursuant to either a breach-of-contract or
    fraud theory.
    http://www.becker-poliakoff.com/pubs/articles/dehaan_e/dehaan_litigation_062904.pdf

  29. Anonymous says:

    @Mona

    Over the past several days I have given thought to the election and its results.

    I don’t like the results, not one bit. I have come to realize that this is the democratic process like it or not.

    It is something like people who like our justice system but only when the verdict mirrors our own own sense of morality or legality.

    On the other hand Florida Statutes 100.361 – Municipal recall is the vehicle to remove an elected official.
    After reading the statute a couple of times the section for grounds for recall sticks out like a sore thumb.

    If there are grounds I would consider signing a petition.

    The link below is to the Florida Statute to recall municipal officials.
    There is no recall of elected state officials. Our legislators let that bill die last year.

    http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0100-0199/0100/Sections/0100.361.html

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