By ALEXANDER WILLIS
Early voting for the 2019 Spring Hill elections came to a close last Saturday, with only 662 residents casting a ballot during the roughly two and a half-week period. Some city leaders remained hopeful that the turnout will increase come election day on Thursday, though were disappointed with the results so far, with Mayor Rick Graham calling the figures “still low.”
The early voting period, which began on Friday, March 22, saw its highest turnout this past Saturday, with 109 residents casting a ballot. The lowest turnout was the previous Saturday on March 30, which saw a meager turnout of just 25 people.
While still hopeful, Graham said on Monday that he feared the turnout might be lower than the city’s historically low election in 2015, which was even lower than the 2017 election, which saw just under 8 percent of registered voters participate.
“Saturday early voting used to be a big deal, and now, I go out and it’s two or three candidates,” Graham said. “I can’t blame them, because they could probably door knock and do better… I sure wish it was better. This one may be lower than four years ago.”
Graham wasn’t wrong about weekend turnout either. The first weekend of early voting saw a turnout of just 38 on Friday, and 36 on Saturday. The second weekend saw 45 on Friday, and the previously mentioned 25 that Saturday, with the final weekend of early voting seeing the period’s highest turnout; 76 on Friday, and 109 on Saturday.
Fears that this election may be even lower than 2017’s numbers stem from the fact that the position of city mayor isn’t up for grabs this election, with mayoral elections historically having much higher voting turnouts.
Some city residents have been critical of how early voting was handled, with its one voting location of the Winchester Community Building, which happens to be just off Main Street and Beechcroft Road – two roads that are often faced with heavy traffic congestion.
Election day Thursday will last from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m., and will include three voting locations instead of one, potentially helping offset the early low turnout. Voting locations include the Winchester Community Building at 562 Maury Hill St., the Longview Recreation Center at 2909 Commonwealth Drive, and Spring Hill High School at 1 Raider Lane in Columbia.
To view a sample ballot, click here, or to view a machine sample ballot, click here. To brush up on the candidates running for office, click here to view the Home Page’s previous coverage of the Meet the Candidates Forum.