It's hard to blame anyone for not voting in Tuesday's presidential preference primary. If we did, in Columbia County we'd be blaming just about everybody.
With just 15.5 percent of the voters going to the polls, it's easy to see the election wasn't important for most people. And it is difficult to draw statistical comparisons from such a low turnout.
Even so, it's interesting to examine the precinct-by-precinct votes. (You can see the numbers at the county's Web site, www.co.columbia.ga.us.)
Here are a few interesting nuggets from the results:
John Edwards beat John Kerry, 45 percent to 41 percent a solid indication of the conservative nature of Colum-bia County voters. (Unopposed on the GOP ballot, President Bush received nearly 300 more votes than Edwards' total!) Edwards won 24 precincts, Kerry took 18, and the two tied with 39 votes each at the Greenbrier High precinct. Edwards ran strongest in the Grovetown Middle precinct, capturing 65 percent of the vote; Kerry's highest margin was at the Burks Mountain precinct with 66 percent.
Third place among Democrat presidential contenders went to Al Sharpton, who took 9.3 percent of the vote. Sharpton, the likely recipient of crossover Republican mischief votes, polled highest with voters at Westside Christian (19 percent), Evans Elementary (18 percent) and Gospel Waters Baptist Church (17 percent). The fiery minister was weakest with rural voters, at Euchee Creek and Eubank Blanchard (3 percent) and Bessie Thomas (4 percent).
Votes for Sharpton may have been "wasted" in the sense that he had no real shot at winning, but he is still an active candidate. Dennis Kucinich hasn't dropped out of the race, either - yet he came in sixth, behind Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman, both of whom long ago quit the race.
Georgia's new flag won by a wide margin in every precinct, easily beating the blue-and-gold "Roy's Rag." Its biggest support came at Wesley United Methodist Church with 85 percent; its lowest margin of preference was at Grovetown Method-ist, with just 65 percent.
A good excuse
One person who didn't vote Tuesday is a little sheepish about it: Bobby Christine, serving with the National Guard in Kuwait. He lost the envelope with his absentee ballot request, and missed the deadline.
"What makes this especially shameful is all the research I did last summer up in Iraq for the 2,500 or so soldiers working for our unit," Christine writes via e-mail. "I got online and researched absentee voting for those residing overseas. I printed out instructions for all 50 different states and scads of the forms. I handed out voter forms and instructions by the basket, and then didn't even mail one in myself. I'm a little embarrassed."
Geez. If anybody has a good reason for not voting, it's Capt. Christine yet he's "embarrassed"? What about the other 40,000 registered voters in Columbia County who didn't bother to cast a ballot? What's their excuse?
Never fear; in an election year there will be plenty more opportunities to vote. One person who deserves strong consideration is Herman Cain, a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Cain made the rounds recently in Columbia Coun-ty, speaking at a Republican Party breakfast and stopping by my office. He is a self-made millionaire and accomplished businessman, who by all rights should enjoy happy retirement.
Instead, he has a fire in his belly for public service. U.S. Reps. Johnny Isakson and Mac Collins are seen as the favorites, but as more people hear and see Cain a black conservative whose ministerial background comes out in his forceful, commonsense delivery they may see a real winner.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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