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ESPLOST could represent unsettling trend
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By John Deike
Coastal Courier (Hinesville, GA) Staff Writer

To put it mildly, the turnout for the recent ESPLOST vote fell well short of expectations.  
To put it accurately, in 2002 there were 15,000 registered voters in Liberty County, and 1,147 people voted in the Educational Special Purpose Local option Sales Tax election. For 2007, there were almost 8,000 more registered voters, but only a total of 534 people voted (425 voted yes, and 109 voted no), according to the Board of Elections statistic reports.
In percentages those turnouts were nearly 8 percent in 2002 and just over 2 percent this year.
With the vote, a one-percent sales tax was renewed for business in the County and is expected to raise more than $50 million over the next five years to build and maintain educational facilities.  
“I am very unhappy due to the lack of voter participation,” Board of Elections official Bud Frankenthaler said. “These special elections can be tougher to publicize, and in turn, it can deprive the public to learn or get more involved in the election process.”
“Obviously, it was not promoted well by the Board of Education. I wish more people had taken a greater interest, but again, part of (the uninterest) is due to the school board not properly informing them,” board member Charlie Frasier said.
To increase the awareness and comfort level of coming out to vote, the board provides training sessions for groups that request it, he said.
“If we talk numbers, less than three percent of the voter population came out. The increasing apathy amongst voters in this town is troubling because people don’t vote and then they complain when taxes are raised or a new education facility is built,” Board of Elections official Gene Mobley said.  
Another official on the board, Esau Kelly, put it simply and said, “If you really want your voice to be heard, do not be lazy, take action and cast your ballot.”
Despite the criticisms, the Board of Elections generally agreed the passing of this tax would be benefit the community.
“I feel that teachers make a large contribution to the community, and I think they need all the support the community can provide to them,” Kelly said.
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