If you’re a Palm Coast resident, you’re over 18 and you have a pulse, shame on you.
I say this almost without reserve, and with exception to the 5,800 people who bothered to vote in this week’s election for Palm Coast City Council, representing just 11.6 percent of registered voters. While I consider not voting as much a right as voting, and a defensible one at that, the tally here has more to do with indifference than a conscious political statement. That was the second-worst turnout in Palm Coast’s history, after September’s 10.6 percent turnout during the mayoral election. Keep in mind, that’s registered voters, but 10,000 people of voting age in Palm Coast haven’t even bothered to register. So when you calculate turnout more accurately, by counting all eligible voters, barely 10 percent of the city’s adult population voted. And since the vote was pretty much split down the middle, you now have two new council members elected by fewer than 5 percent of the population. Jon Netts, too, was elected with barely 5 percent of the vote. Those aren’t elections. They’re straw polls. And democracy doesn’t run on straw.
That’s not to take anything away from Bill McGuire or Jason DeLorenzo, the winners. The same thinking would have applied to Dennis Cross or Holsey Moorman had they won. Their election would not have enjoyed anymore legitimacy than that of the other three, and what legitimacy those three now have, unfairly to them, isn’t much.
Except in the first year of the city’s existence, Palm Coast has always had lazy voters with its own elections, held in off years on the presumption that they’d focus more attention on the city’s issues. Look how that turned out. Something is very wrong when nine out of 10 voters—in a city of compulsive golfers, shoppers and recreational gluttons—can’t take 15 minutes to vote when voting has been made so convenient, with two weeks of early voting and absentee voting. Particularly in a town where half the adult population doesn’t hold a job. The I’m-too-busy-working excuse doesn’t work here.
But let’s not excuse the city council itself, which decided to save a few thousand dollars by consolidating its usual 21 precincts into six and confusing voters instead. To save no more money than it’ll cost the city to fix a culvert no one will ever hear about, the council was willing to short-circuit voters’ convenience and undermine citizens’ single-most important stake in the city’s business. “The idea of reducing the voting locations is insane,” Steven Jones, a Palm Coast voter, told the council last March in what turns out to be a kind understatement. “Voters must be provided with a voting location near their residences to ensure that they will make every effort to vote,” he wrote. Absent that, turnout would suffer. Jones was right.
He was also ignored. Just as Palm Coast ignored its responsibility to follow up the changes to its voting system with a proper education campaign. City officials didn’t even think of posting signs at the usual precincts on election day indicating where voters could vote. Of course, a proper campaign might have cost the money the council was too cheap to spend on a proper election to start with, though it’s never too cheap for a third arboreal make-over on Belle Terre or self-congratulatory PR.
You should see the council handing yellow t-shirts to graduates of its “citizens’ academy,” parading them before the cameras and patting itself on the back every few months, its civic duty of educating voters in the wonders and infallibility of Palm Coast allegedly done. The election’s turnout tells you all you need to know about the validity of that academy. And here’s a city that doesn’t hesitate to use its gaudy electronic signs to entice people to eat fish sticks, baby backed ribs and greasy fries at its special events in Town Center, where the price of admission alone is obscene, yet the city council couldn’t be bothered to spend a dime on voter education for something that actually makes a difference in the city’s fate. Put simply, the council’s placid, lazy, self-satisfied attitude is a dead-on reflection of Palm Coast’s non-voters. Those who did vote, of course, chose two far more engaged—if not in-your-face—councilmen for reasons that should be obvious by now. That, too, is the old council’s self-inflicted result. (Council members could take a lesson from Flagler County commissioners, most of whom actually earn their keep as the people’s representatives beyond meeting chambers, and George Hanns’s occasional one-liners aside, keep the laugh track to a minimum in those chambers.)
Good thing Palm Coast has now moved its elections to coincide with the federal cycle. That’ll surely improve the numbers, though even Flagler County’s regular election turnout has been plummeting in the last few years, coincidental with the change at the supervisor of elections’ office—from the Peggy Border years to the those of Kimberle Weeks. I doubt it’s a coincidence. Turnout usually goes up in economically embittered times, at least at the national level. It barely broke 50 percent in the go-go economy of 1996 and 2000, but was at 55 percent in the wake of the 1991-92 recession and almost 57 percent in 2008. Palm Coast is an epicenter of the housing crash’s economic ruin, yet turnout tanked. Some responsible city we live in. At least the flag-waving is as brisk as ever.
Friday was Veterans Day, when we thanked and honored veterans who’ve served to protect our freedoms, voting being one of those. Palm Coast is full of veterans. It says something pretty dismal about our politics and our community when even many of them can’t be bothered to vote.
Jim Guines says
Thanks for that. For those of us who voted, we would call that a very much needed butt kicking.
Here’s the problem. I’m here just to go to school. I couldn’t care less what happens to this desolate town and it’s corrupt council, as I don’t even intend to stay here for much longer. Beyond that, I probably know more about what’s going on in Libya and/or Greece at any given time than I do this local community. That’s the state of the world today, world news permeates globally, nearly instantly – but I never hear anything about my local area. Why? Well perhaps it’s because I don’t have TV – I don’t feel the need to inundate myself with brainless adds x amount of hours per day. Other than that, my source for local news is You. Why aren’t there more discussion about the local candidates, and their relevance on my daily life? One glaring fact of life today, it seems, is that people want to be always more ‘connected’ to their current social groups, at the expense of being less connected to their local area. A couple decades ago I’m sure the local government election turnout was still dismal, yet acceptable, and the result of the internet today is that I know of current events around the nation in near real-time but not who the mayor of my city is. Why is this? I don’t care who the mayor – and whoever it is – given the track record of palm coast, he’s probably just come corrupt corporate mouthpiece anyway.
Thank you, Pierre. I read several blogs a week, reading the comments of those quick to judge those who disagree, quick to use labels like “unpatriotic”, “Communist”, “Socialist” and other things not fit to be repeated. At parties and gatherings, friends and neighbors lament about the direction our country is headed in, and yet we produced such a poor showing in this city. We talk about our “Rights”, but forget that voting is the bedrock of all of these rights. We talk about our collective love of Democracy, but just like a muscle that supports the body ‘Use it or lose it’ applies here, as well and those who think it can’t happen here are deluding themselves. Again, thank you, Pierre, for saying what must be said. Hopefully your words will reach those who failed to take the time to exercise their right to vote.
@Mike I don’t know where you go to school, nor what you’re studying, Mike, but I’d appreciate it if you would take the time to read this quote attributed to a German Pastor during WWII and think about their implication.
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Martin Niemoller (1892 – 1984)
We went to vote at our usual place and it was closed. Came home looked it up online, and thought that can’t be right. We went the library, hoping we could vote there, but not sure. I wonder how many went to the closed places and just said screw it. We almost did.
Ralph Belcher says
My little fantasy involves: Those who take the time to raise a stink at City Council meetings about Dog Park refurbishment, Bocci Courts, Fences along parks, and many other allied subjects must be required to show proof of casting a ballot.
I wonder how many bitterly complain about what they don’t like about the city and never actually vote?
Just a matter of curiosity. That’s all. In reality I fully support a citizen’s right to have their say at the podium during public comment. Just asking how many put their five minutes of time (to vote) in… taking care of civic duty?
Morgen Monaco says
I said it before, we only need 1 day, not 2 days to elect these kind of yoyo. Anything else is a wast of time & money. Of course you need brain & common sense to understand.
Outstanding piece, Pierre. Sadly, this may be the only site where such criticisms are freely voiced.
I don’t think you’ll see it in the Observer with two issues devoted to their candidate, even after the poor decision about taking money from Waste Pro and the lie about the campaign treasurer, also the publisher’s daughter. And you won’t see it in the News Journal, who are happy as long as their guys are in office.
Between the media we must rely on here and decisions like eliminating those voting precincts right before the Mayor’s election, no one will even notice their rights as citizens here are being trampled on, most specifically Mike.
A candid comment, Mike. And a guarantee that the corrupt politician STAYS in office. We must all participate in freedom and democracy.
Edith Campins says
Thank you Mr. Tristam for your article and thanks also to Anita for her quote. As a naturalized citizen I consider the ability to vote as an honour and a privilige. How anyone can not care enough to vote is somthing I cannot understand. Are our residents this complaisant? Are they doing so well that they have been lulled into a false sense of security?
Pierre Tristam says
Thanks Layla-and Edith, my fellow-immigrant. That’s why I think all those immigrants deemed “illegal” could do wonders for this democracy. They energized its economy in the 1990s and 2000s. They could do the same for its polity, if only given the chance. Yes, amnesty. Yes, to all those 12 million. Yes, immigrants (as they have in the past) would do more for America’s political revival than its natives, who are making a pretty nasty mess of the place. And now for the howling and double-standardized retorts to this bit of heresy.
PC Citizen says
Pierre – The veterans that I know voted. Can you list the ones that you know who didn’t.
Pierre Tristam says
PC, the Census Bureau’s latest numbers put Palm Coast’s veterans population at 9,063. Only 5,800 people voted. Would you like to do the math or should we give this one to a second grader preparing for next year’s FCAT?
Bill McGuire says
An observation about the voting demographics; I was at the polls every day of early voting and all day election day. I saw very few voters under the age of ~ 40. So much of the campaign questions and verbage devoted to “what are you going to do for the younger people and the children?” and yet most of the votes, by far, were cast by the older citizens of Palm Coast. You’d see the older couples every day, arm in arm and assisting one another in and out of the polls. I guess these truly are the “Greatest Generation.” What’s to become of us when they’re gone?
One thing to keep in mind. The last time amnesty was granted to our immigrants was in the 1980’s. It did not grant automatic citizenship, only a path to citizenship and the right to remain here and work.
We have many here in this country today who took advantage of the opportunity to remain here legally and work but did not become citizens.
These people have enjoyed what the country has to offer but deliberately did not become citizens because of our tax laws and they do not vote.
We need people willing to become AMERICANS.
To Layla: I’m not sure whether you mean ‘resident aliens’, sometimes referred to as green card holders; they pay taxes just like everybody else but do not have the vote.
And Pierre, I suppose the “natives” you’re referring to are really those whose forebears were immigrants ; unfortunately their present day progeny have become lazy and complacent , take their freedoms for granted, and give a rat’s donkey for voting.
you can’t possibly think that changing the voting locations had anything to do with this, can you? Heck, if someone is motivated to vote, they’re going to do it…come hell or high water. The election for the mayor, in my opinion, well, that’s a little different. Many of our residents have NEVER had to deal with something where someone gets elected in a primary. That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard….either it’s an election or a primary. You don’t have a hybrid.
Congrats to those that won. Congrats to those that went out there and voted. Thank you for taking your time to do so. :)
As for Mike above… have a nice time in school, do go and move on. Perhaps you’ll be involved there. I doubt it. You’re a little too self involved to give a crap about your ‘local area’. You certainly don’t now. No one owes you anything…you owe yourself to take the time to get involved. :)
Thank you for the opinion article. It was a great read!
Liana G says
I’ve been in this country for over 20 years and I never had intentions of becoming a naturalized citizen because I knew that one day I will leave and return to my mother country which, by the way, does not allow dual citizenship. The draconian immigration reforms engulfing this country propelled me into becoming a citizen this year for the sake of my children. I can understand Mike’s view because I too, to some extent, feel the same way on certain issues, especially since I did not want to move to PC and I will eventually leave PC. But I am here now, and I am a citizen, and I am a registered voter, and I feel that I have a responsibility and an obligation to participate in civic duties, and I did – I voted.
Thank you Pierre for this editorial and also your stand regarding illegal immigrants that came to our country to do the jobs that most do not want to do and risking the only thing of value they bring along “their lives”. A very sad latest racist movement that also profiles legal immigrants in a blunt and unjustified manner. Apathy and distrust for our local government is what discourages young people to vote, unfortunately. My offspring refused to vote in these local elections and her reason was…Mom remember when I voted for Obama and follow up his campaign and I was even emotional when he was elected marking a historical time in our country?…then what happened…? We are still at war loosing our brave soldiers, I lost my job and I am looking for work and the oil companies continuo gouging us at the pump with impunity. No real change as promised from the mess that Bush engineered and when Obama could have made the Change in his first 2 years and he didn’t. All politicians lie to us.
It would not make a difference if there was a voting location on every corner, this is about apathy.
Apathy is rampant nationwide, very sad indeed since people in the middle east are still dying in their attempt to dip a finger in ink and vote.
Then again with the large majority of people out there uninformed, and not knowing anything about important current issues, either locally or nationally, maybe it is a good thing they do stay home.
Who was it that said “you get the kind of government you deserve” ?
Liana, I’m glad you’re here. I hope you’ll change your mind about staying. We need you.
Online voting – if someone can figure out how to do it fairly, it will change the face politics and government
Thank you Mr. flagler LIve for your column! You say it as it is and your pretty blunt about it by the way..
We are lazy and simply don’t care(those who did not want vote) not those who could not find or make it to a voting location. We say were care but were simply just lazy ass Americans. Yes sir, we can go to our city council meetings to complain about a neighbor or a road or even a fence, but to vote who really cares, right?
Our mayor voted in with less than 5% as stated in the commentors above how pathetic. Even those that are new to the board were elected by the same margins and congratulations to them and those that lost. You are real Americans so thank you for running for office
Immigrants? Is not all of the Americans immigrants most anyone who floated, flew or crossed any American boarder we have. If you are illegal good luck fill out your paper work and hope for the best. I’m sorry about our American indians but that is a commentary of another day.
Hey Mike your young enough to change things. They did it during the American revolution young men and during the civil War the biggest impact was Viet Nam and it’s peace movement.
Don’t feel so bitter my friend even you can do it and change things. In fact rather than vote why don’t you run for office you may inspire others to vote because they don’t agree with you.
Yea, why care about the middle east or Greece or countys that hate us? I’m not sure and have not figured that out yet but I still want my local Government to run better than big government so that’s why I vote and even you should vote just to do that for local government!!!!
My biggest pet peeve is our Kimberly Weeks election person. She is the main reason why people did not vote she does not know what she is doing. She was a bad choice with no experience (Hence the budget mess with the BOCC). she needs to get out or be voted out. she can’t budget, or for that matter maybe even count the votes correctly.Where were the poles where were the signs at least the candidates were smart enough to say were the voting stations were in their advertisements. Do wait for do nothing and I’m confused Kim to help you.
I guess the only saving grace to the fact that the pathetic turn out is that there is a lesser of a chance for Kimberly Weeks to make a counting mistake in the election votes. One can only hope that M.s Week’s staff did the counting anyway………………..
This election was a perfect example of the feelings from a majority pf Palm Coast residents. They don’t care because their to busy trying to figure out were they will get money to pay for their morgage. Or how they will buy food for their children when there are NO JOBS in or around Palm Coast. Survival has become the #1 responsibility. No one gives a rats petunia that the same handful of BS politicians are running again and plan on taken MORE money from the already fiancially challenged residents.
Did it ever occur to you, Gunther, that not voting or paying attention to what your elected officials are doing is the REASON for all this?
Liana G says
Thank you Layla, but my husband is losing patience and I think I have punished him long enough, and my schooling is almost finished. Maybe you should consider running for local office, you’ll get my vote :)
Completely disgusted says
I would have voted if I thought a single one of them would do something worthwhile for this city. But I’ve had it with the entrenched leaders and their “open door / closed mind” policy. These leaders see this city as nothing more than a retirement community that houses Sea Ray. Even their “joint venture with SBDC” to help business is nothing more than public relations program, without any reall economic effect. (And just in case someone in charge is reading this – the program cannot help unless you have effective outreach, just as you would need if you were marketing your business). It’s just something they can point to and say “see, we’re doing something”, and if it fails, they can say “well, it was them not me.” I’ll vote when it’s going to make a difference, and between now and then I’ll make better use of my time.
So why didn’t people vote? One can speculate that “they don’t care”. Or they don’t take the time to be informed. Or one could be realistic and honest that these last two elections were extremely confusing for people and not properly communicated in the area.
1. The Mayoral election was originally a ‘primary’ and then it became a general election due to candidate size.
2. This election was for two district seats. You would think that the people of those districts should vote, but it was open to everyone. Granted this one probably should have had a better turnout.
Now let’s take into account communication:
1. Our news service has lacked for some time in the area. I love the effort here as well as the “other guys”, but it’s still new. Major news kind of forgets about us.
2. We have an election office that really is not with the times and using all of the avenues available to keep voters informed. Mass email is cheap enough (which they use but for a quarterly newsletter). Twitter is free. Facebook pages are free. People are getting information in different ways today and it’s important to recognize that and utilize those avenues that are available too.
This is not to say that there isn’t personal responsibility and people should vote. I also attribute it to the mass overload of politics and the ugly head it’s reared not only for those elected but their supporters. We do need to get better at motivating voters even in local elections as well as the larger state and national ones.
Yes, Pierre, I will confess that I have not voted in the last two. The mayor one I was so confused over to be honest, and this one was not my district. No excuse on either. I agree. I have voted in all others since moving here, but these two . . . Anyway, may I continue to visit? I do appreciate all the good things you all do, and would love to see a mobile version of this site.
Tom MARTONE says
If you put a voting booth on every corner in Palm Coast and Flagler County ,They still would not vote!!! Don’t blame Palm Coast!!!
Tom Martone, “don’t blame Palm Coast?” Change out all of the polling places prior to the Mayor’s election and don’t blame the city?
I guess we’ll never know, will we?
"My Daily Rant" says
Pierre; Yes let them come,They can turn our country into one like their leaving.
Billie Maer says
@ my daily rant
Since this country is predominantly a land of immigrants (excluding the Native Americans of course) – one can say that the immigrants have turned it into what it is.
Are not the hard working immigrants of the past, or recent immigrants that turned this country in what it is now, but instead the ones that have been here for many generations and are elected to serve us and once in power turn against us, that elected them and against what they promised on the campaign trail and stab us in the back. The elected ones give more benefits to the wealthy, to Wall Street, more wars that we do not win and can no longer afford and more foreign aid on our pockets and all the deregulation to outsource our jobs over good old GREED. Then they wear the proud pin of Charity leaders tossing around a meager hand out to the same homeless, jobless and needy that they destitute. Stop bashing the immigrant, as we are all immigrants here except our proud Native American Nations.
Tom MARTONE says
Layla…I guess not ……… Who Knows??
I wish people would stop deluding themselves into thinking Israel is an ally.Remember the USS Liberty!Israel has been a constant pain in the butt. If anyone should defend Israel, it should be the English who created it and the ensuing mess with the Palestinians.
Now we’re stuck with all of the losers that got the vote, Manfre – Fleming – ETC!!!!!!!!!