Local News

Election turnout for Sebring remains low

SEBRING - In the wake of another Sebring city election with low turnout, some people renewed discussion of the possibility of moving the election to November to coincide with federal, county and state elections, or at least giving voters the opportunity to decide.

But it appears that the votes won't be there on the city council to accomplish that unless someone changes their mind.

Newly-elected council members Mark Stewart and Lenard Carlisle Jr., say they would favor moving the election to November to increase turnout. But they will replace on April 1 council members John Clark and Andrew Fells, the two members who had the same position.

In the Tuesday night election in which voters re-elected Bud Whitlock and elected Stewart and Carlisle, only 510 voters showed up at the polls, less than 10 percent of the 5,299 registered voters.

While that may not be high turnout, it was still an improvement over the past several elections, records show.

In 2011, Sebring had 5,755 registered voters and the turnout was 424 voters, or 7.37 percent. For the Sebring election in 2013, Sebring had 5,501 registered voters and 278, or 5.05 percent of them voted.

Even with the increase this year to 9.6 percent, Stewart called the turnout "very sad."

Stewart said he believes combining the elections would help with the turnout.

Of his election, he said, "I am very humbled." He said he used campaign signs and talked to people on Facebook and in person. A lot of people said they liked him as a candidate and they apparently followed up by voting for him, he said.

Carlisle said he would like to see more people in Sebring take an interest in city government.

"I'm a voter," he said. "I like to have a say-so in my city."

He also agreed that moving the election to November would likely bring out more voters.

Griffin, who was not up for re-election, continued to disagree on that. He said he believes people don't vote because they like what city government is doing.

But Clark said, "Maybe it's just the opposite: they're disappointed (in city government) and they don't show up."

Clark said that several years ago he called Sebring "the epicenter of apathy."

"It probably still is," he said.

Fells said he doesn't believe the turnout has to do with contentment. The lack of it is largely due to the election not being in the forefront of people's minds, he said.

Of the turnout, he said, "I think that's terrible."

Whitlock could not be reached for comment on the election.

A couple of residents walking in downtown Wednesday said they didn't even know an election was being held.

"I didn't know there was an election," said Nicole Galloway, who said she's a registered voter and a resident of Sebring, but is new to the area.

Tonya Kahn, another resident who said she's a registered voter, also said she didn't know an election was being held.

Don Scherer, who said he moved here recently, said he knew about the election, but took a trip to the beach on Tuesday. He also said he is not familiar with the candidates.


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