HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – In the middle of a pandemic, the safety of getting out to vote is a hot topic. Absentee ballot numbers are up across Alabama and municipalities had precautions in place for voters at the polls, but did the pandemic impact voter turnout? The Alabama League of Municipalities say the numbers were different across the state.
According to the Madison County Probate Judges office, the city of Huntsville had 163,240 registered voters for the August 25 municipal election. 27,866 ballots were cast in Huntsville Tuesday. That’s about a 17% voter turnout.
For the city of Madison, 40,850 people were registered to vote. 8,980 cast their ballots this week. That’s just shy of a 22% voter turnout.
The League of Municipalities Represents the interests of 463 municipal governments across the state.
“We feel municipalities are the foundation of our states economy and the vitality of those communities is based on making sure that people are exercising their right to vote and that their voice is being heard,” says Executive Director Greg Cochran.
Greg Cochran says he believes the pandemic can be blamed for some people not showing up at the polls Tuesday. “The pandemic has put fear in people for attending events in a local manner. And so, I do think the elderly population which is a large number of voters… very active in the act of democracy have probably done absentee voting or they just stayed away from the polls,” says Cochran.
He says low voter turnout can also be attributed to people being happy with local leadership and not feeling the need to vote for a change. “We had some communities that didn’t have to have elections at all because everyone was happy with those candidates that are in office and so some of the low voter turn out may be attributed to that,” says Cochran.
Cochran says all votes matter, but in small towns, it can really make a difference. “In our municipal elections, especially if you look at small rural towns. One vote can make a difference,” says Cochran. “You may have in a small city council district 15 total votes cast so one vote does make a difference.”
But in some parts of the state, there was an increase in voter turnout. “It’s been all over the board depending on local demand. Guntersville for example, had an increase in voter turn out, Prattville had an increase in voter turnout,” says Cochran.
In Huntsville, 17% of registered voters cast their ballots in municipal elections. In the city of Madison, about 22%. Cochran says it’s normal to have lower turnout for municipal elections.
“When you register, you’re registering not only for your municipal elections but also for your statewide, your national elections. It isn’t uncommon to have a lower turnout.”
The Alabama League of Municipalities formed in 1935 to provide municipalities with advocacy, educational and professional training and legal guidance.