Smith: Getting out the vote is key for Democrats
by W. Winston Skinner
Getting out the vote is a key to Democratic victories in the future in Georgia, according to Coweta County Commissioner Al Smith.
Smith talked about the need to get disengaged voters to the polls during the Atkinson-Arnall Dinner at the Newnan Centre on Friday night. “The percentage of the turnout is so low,” he said.
“It perplexes me. It troubles me,” he said. “Why are there so many registered voters who don’t vote?”
Smith said there are 800,000 African-Americans in Georgia who are registered but do not vote. It is not unusual, he said, for candidates to be elected with only 17 percent voter turnout.
“You boil it down, it’s apathy. If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way, and, if it’s not, you’ll find an excuse,” Smith said.
He talked about the importance of voting in each election. While a vote always has the same value, he noted votes in a city or county election have more weight than one in a state or national contest.
Jason Carter, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate and this year’s Atkinson-Arnall keynote speaker, sounded a similar note. “The more people we turn out, the better we do. We want more and more and more participation,” he said.
Carter said Republicans are working to limit the ability of people to participate in the electoral process. When a group is working for inclusion in voting, “you know you are on the right side,” the candidate said.
Smith said energizing more people to vote could make a difference. “Georgia can turn blue,” he said.
The crowd at the Centre was “by far the largest” for any Atkinson-Arnall event, which dates to 2004, said Dennis Thompson, county party chair. About 170 people attended the catered meal.
Others speaking during the evening were Jimmy Glenn, who is organizing the Coweta County Young Democrats; longtime Coweta Democratic Party leader Dee Crouch; Cynthia Bennett, state senate candidate; and Ronnie Redding, who chaired the committee that organized this year’s Atkinson-Arnall Dinner. A quartet from East Coweta High – Lydia Bentley, Caleigh Brand, Marina Maldanado and Michaela Smith – sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”