By Mark Marcoplos

Orange County Commissioners Are Elected in the Primary

By Mark Marcoplos Posted March 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm

A Republican has never been elected County Commissioner in Orange County history. This is likely to remain true for years to come.

A strong majority of county voters are registered as Democrats and a majority of voters are unaware of who their commissioners are and what they do. When the general election rolls around in the fall, there are way more voters than participated in the primary and they are mainly attracted to the big name contests. After they vote for President, Governor, and higher profile legislative candidates, an overwhelming number of voters simply vote the straight party ticket. 

Any of the candidates who won the spring Democratic primaries could have died or run naked down Main Street in Hillsborough a week before the election and still been elected in the general election. The winning candidates invariably crow about their large support as evidenced by the general election votes, but they know better. 

There have been two primaries since the County Commissioners altered the election process by creating the current unsatisfying system which has some district seats as well as maintaining some at-large seats. A look at the numbers will reveal just how few citizens actually choose our county leaders.

In 2008, Steve Yuhasz won the District 2 primary with a grand total of 1489 votes out of 2673 total votes cast for this office. That is not a misprint. During this primary, there were 77,061 total county voters. The end result was that 2% of county voters chose our county commissioner.

In 2010, Earl McKee won the District 2 primary with 2733 votes out of a total of 5379. There were slightly more than 100,000 registered voters that year, so about 2.7% of county voters selected Commissioner McKee for us.

People can’t be forced to pay attention to local county issues and the commissioners, so we are not likely to achieve numbers of knowledgeable voters commensurate with big federal and state elections. However, it would be a tremendous improvement to remove party affiliation from the county races. Then the voting would at least be done by those who are paying attention and the results would not be clouded by the many thousands of straight-ticket votes cast in ignorance. And we would only need one election, thus saving money.

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