Civic Participation

The November 2008 General Election recorded some of the highest voter participation rates South Carolina has ever seen. Currently, there are approximately 2.5 million registered voters in our state and over 1.9 million of us participated in the November General Election.

This is good news because it shows growth in voter participation for the last three Presidential elections.

This news serves as a jumping off point to discuss civic participation as a local issue. The most voters usually participate in presidential elections; fewer voters participate in non-presidential elections; and, sadly, even fewer participate in local elections.

The recent high water mark for participation in a City of Columbia election (which is held in April) is 22%, which was reached in 2006. In the 2006 City of Columbia election there was a race for Mayor between long-term incumbent Bob Coble and his challenger Kevin Fisher.

In the 2008 City of Columbia Election, where there were two contested seats on the ballot (one at-large, and one district race), turnout was in the mid-teens. Sadly, in most city elections fewer than 1 in 5 voters choose to go to the polls.

Imagine for a moment how many people actually call, write or visit with an elected official about an issue in which they have an interest. How many citizens review the agendas for Columbia City Council, Richland County Council or a local school board? If less than 1 in 5 of us regularly vote, how many of us can be bothered to really find out what government is doing on our behalf (or to us)? How many citizens have ever applied to serve on a local government Board or Commission?

The Palmetto Center for Policy Alternatives is starting a project designed to encourage greater civic participation in local government. We will be using a two pronged approach: (1) a series of policy breakfasts that deal with local or statewide issues and (2) encouraging people to become involved by serving on local boards and commissions.

The meetings will feature local elected officials and/or individuals with expertise on issues being discussed. If you would like to be notified of future meetings, please register on this site (coming soon). There will not be any cost to attend these events.

Below is a current listing of job descriptions on local boards and commissions appointed by Columbia City Council. Please take a moment and look through the list and see if any of the positions match your talents and interests. If they do, please complete the application form also located below and mail it to the City. If you choose to mail it to our office, we will send the application to the City for you.

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