Nearly 52 percent of Columbia County's voters set aside time on election day or during the early voting period to fulfill one of the duties of their citizenship.
That's considered a pretty good turnout, which is a sad commentary on our standards. Millions of people around the world are willing to risk intimidation, violence or even death to cast a ballot, yet we so take the process for granted that nearly half the people eligible to vote don't even bother.
Of the county's voters who did take the time to perform their civic duty, their ballots largely mirrored those of the rest of the state with Republicans sweeping all state offices.
In smaller races, those closest to the constituents, Harlem voters chose to return two incumbent city council members to office in an expression of the old saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."And District 2 voters resoundingly chose Kristi Baker as their new school board member to replace the retiring Mickie Blackburn.
What's somewhat puzzling about Baker's race, however, is the number of votes cast for Lee Benedict, a candidate who had announced his withdrawal from the race (though never formally completing the withdrawal process, say board of elections officials).
Despite publicly pulling his name from contention and backing Baker, Benedict still received 783 votes - nearly as many as second-place Carl Schluter. In effect, that means 783 voters took the time to go to the polls but squandered their vote.
Actually, 799 voters threw away their ballot in the race. That includes the 16 who picked none of the three contestants, but instead used the touch-screen voting system's simple process to write in a name.
Could a write-in candidate win? Yes, if the candidate was registered as a write-in - but none were. Voters thus were going to all the trouble to actually get to the polls, and then wasted their vote by writing in the name of a candidate who couldn't win.
Worse, many of those write-ins are nothing more than a laugh at the voter's expense. Seriously: Has it ever actually been funny, to anyone older than a third-grader, to write in "Mickey Mouse"?
One Columbia County voter wrote in the name of the Disney cartoon character in the very important school board race, as did three people in the governor's race, and one each in the race for commissioner of agriculture, labor commissioner and 10th District congressional representative.
The mouse also shared write-in honors with Batman, Charlie Brown, a misspelled "Buggs"Bunny and Donald Duck, among hundreds of other characters, real and fictional.
In contested races, writing in the name of a non-candidate is, in fact, a wasted vote, though Columbia County voters also took it as an opportunity in many cases to voice a protest.
For example, Columbia County voters bucked the rest of the state in the Republican primary and runoff by backing Karen Handel, who lost to eventual winner Nathan Deal. That didn't stop many of them from sending a reminder by writing in Handel's name in the governor's race; 68 voters did so, by far the highest number of a single name written in any race.
It's in uncontested races, however, where voters can write in a name without fear of wasting a vote - and with all local partisan races lacking opposition for the Republican nominees, many Columbia County voters did so.
In legislative races, 364 voters wrote in other names against state Sen. Bill Jackson; 151 wrote in other names rather than vote for state Rep. Lee Anderson; and 188 wrote in on state Rep. Ben Harbin's race.
For the county commission, 637 voters wrote in a name rather than vote for Chairman Ron Cross, 81 wrote in a name other than Commissioner Ron Thigpen, and 209 wrote in a name other than Scott Dean's.
In the Cross election, 34 voters wrote in a version of the name Brett McGuire, the man Cross defeated in the primary - just edging out the 33 voters who wrote in Mickey Mouse. In Dean's race, 22 wrote in some version of David Payne, who lost to Dean in the primary; that's twice the number of votes cast for Mickey Mouse, though the race also received one write-in for Minnie Mouse.
More importantly, the embattled Dean's race included the highest percentage of total write-ins of any race, with nearly 4 percent of voters writing in another name - and in many cases, sending an electronic slap with such write-ins as "Not Scott Dean,"No Confidence"and "Someone Not Immoral."
In any event, what's done is done. Voters have expressed their will, and no one had to endure anything more painful than a brief wait in line to do so.
And in part because of those write-ins, which otherwise could have pushed a candidate to victory, voters will be asked to return to the polls again starting Thanksgiving week to vote in a runoff for two down-ballot state races.
Many, no doubt, will again take the opportunity to send a shout out to a cartoon character instead.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.