The Tellico Village Property Owners Association board listened March 17 to a presentation highlighting why voter turnout and registration are vital to the community.
Susan Kirk, POA Governmental Affairs Committee chairwoman, discussed the committee’s goals for the year and how Villagers can participate, with the top priority being voter initiative.
Kirk said voter initiative, which includes turnout and registration, will likely be a focus for years to come.
“We’re going to continue the push for voter registration,” she said. “We tried to keep numbers on this. However, it’s really hard to tell if the impact on it is being made by us or a combination of all efforts by the elections office from drivers information, licenses and so forth, because they can register that way. But we have seen a definite increase in voter registration as well as voter turnout. We had 83% participation in the vote in November. We’re going to continue strongly with that.”
Other aspects of increasing voter initiative include having registration forms readily available around the Village and using the Tell-E-Gram as a constant source of information from the GAC.
Kirk wants to raise awareness about local elections and why they are important.
“Many of our local elections are actually decided in the primary, and that may not be the case in the areas where our Villagers have moved from,” Kirk said. “For example, which there are a lot of them coming up in 2022, if they are not contested, they are actually decided in the primary, which is May. Very interestingly enough they still have to appear on the August ballot, and they must receive one vote in order to have won an election. Even though they technically appear in May, they still have to appear on the August ballot, but they never go to the November ballot. It’ll be very interesting to watch and see what contested elections we have. … We’re going to be encouraging in voting in all primaries.”
Pat White, board member, said higher voter turnouts can only help the Village.
“Candidates go out and campaign obviously,” White said. “Candidates have to spend resources, money, so they can go out and fundraise and all that, and their resources are typically limited, correct?”
Candidates visit certain locations because voters are active, Kirk said.
“When they look at that voter roll, and they see 90% of the people in this area have voted, where are they going to spend their money to go talk to people and put signs out?” White said.
Candidates will go to areas with high participation and ask what they can do for the residents in that area, White said, adding that the best way to keep the interests of Tellico Village at the forefront is to be active.
Kirk said candidates want to know where to spend time knocking on doors and having coffee with constituents.
Rick Blough, board president, said voting in national elections is not enough.
“We turned out 83% of our population for a national election,” Blough said. “Our participation in county elections is abysmal. It’s more like 25%. Basically, we’ve got a bunch of people that are registered, and they’re not turning out for the elections that are most effective for us.”
White recently came under fire for his “voting history.” He said he moved here to retire, not vote, and admittedly didn’t keep up with recent elections unless he knew the candidate or a topic interested him. He said he has since realized he was wrong and will be an active voter in coming elections.
“You won’t see me called out again,” White said. “Not because I got called out, but because of the value of my vote that adds to your vote that makes that voice that makes those limited resources bring that candidate to come ask us, ‘What can I do for you?’”
Kirk said local elections impact the finances and well-being of Villagers.
“The impact of the county races that will happen and how it affects the individual’s pocketbook here in the Village is tremendous in 2022,” Kirk said. “Every vote counts. It’s going to matter. We all did retire here to take it easy because we’ve worked all our lives, and we want to have a good time, but part of having that wonderful lifestyle is being able to continue it and not have it heavily impacted by poor decisions of our elected officials.”