Over 500 voters skip on hotel tax

Published 12:30 am Thursday, June 5, 2008

NATCHEZ — Out of the 3,884 voters that came out Tuesday, over 500 of those chose not to vote for or against the hotel tax.

Election Commission Chairman Larry Gardner said this could be a combination of things.

Voter apathy, lack of opinion and general misunderstanding of what the proposal was could all be attributes to the unchecked boxes on the ballot.

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The full resolution was posted at each voting precinct.

Tourism Director Connie Taunton said she is not sure what could have been done differently to better educate the public.

She said the information the private sector disseminated and the meetings with the tourism council of the Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce helped.

“We could have had more forums (and) bring more people in from the state division of tourism,” Taunton said.

Gardner said this is not uncommon and the lack of votes isn’t unique to this particular proposal.

“You find that in amendments, propositions and resolutions,” he said. “It’s typical that a lot of people didn’t have an opinion.”

He said he finds solace in the 3,346 people who did choose to vote for it, whether yes or no.

“Those that voted on it knew enough to make a decision,” he said.

He said the biggest roadblock in voting situations is voters just not caring.

“Apathy is still the biggest problem,” he said.

He said democracy came at a hefty price and it’s a shame that so many people abstain from the democratic process.

“Doing nothing doesn’t help the government any,” he said.

Taunton said regardless, she is relieved the tax passed.

“I was very nervous about it needing 60 percent,” she said of the requirements set up by the governor. “It was a tough hill to climb but we made it.”

The next step is for the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau to appoint the 12-member advisory committee.

Taunton said the CVB board will meet June 25 and begin discussing who they want to choose from the different entities mandated by the legislation.

She said she hopes the committee will be formed in July.

Once it’s formed, they can begin to construct a marketing budget.

Money from the hotel tax will start being collected in August but won’t come into the marketing fund until October.