A recent story in the Des Moines Register told about a candidate for the Riceville district school board in Iowa who ran unopposed last month and didn’t receive a single vote. Part of the explanation was that the roster of registered voters in his district is actually quite small – just 122 eligible in that particular section of the school district. But even the candidate himself had more important things to do than go to the polls. And in Iowa – a state which looms large in the nation’s political scene – that’s pretty remarkable.
Here in Cranberry, as most other parts of the country, we too are about to hold a general election, scheduled November 3. It includes candidates for statewide judgeships, for County Commissioner, for County row offices, and two of Cranberry Township’s five seats on the Board of Supervisors. Together, they represent the public offices with the greatest impact on our daily lives.
Now I’m convinced that Cranberry will not become another Riceville; after all, I personally plan to vote, and I hope you will too. But I remain concerned that the turnout for local elections tends to be microscopic. In many parts of the country, sometimes including Cranberry, the percentages languish in the low teens or single digits. And this year, the Butler County Board of Elections may have unwittingly made a low turnout even more likely by switching the poll locations for four of our nine voting districts.
What all of this means is that a tiny fraction of the electorate – sometimes including people with an agenda radically out of step with the general public – can be mobilized to commandeer an election. And it’s perfectly legal. But the apathy that makes it possible to hijack an election is a serious problem for a democracy. It speaks to a level of cynicism and indifference that’s eating away at the foundations of self-government.
It’s a mindset that today’s acrimony and paralysis in our legislative assemblies tends to encourage. Then it’s fueled even more by negative political advertising with the unintended consequence of tarnishing public service as well as everyone in elected office. And it’s an attitude which cascades down to government at every level, whether it’s deserved or not.
I wish I knew of an easy way to offset that cynical attitude, but I’m not sure there’s one at hand. Even so, I’m convinced that when people recognize that democracy, however flawed, remains a viable and authentically American way of advancing the public interest, they will support it. And I’m hoping that our November 3 turnout reflects that recognition.
You can confirm your own voting location here: Cranberry Township Voter Information.
And I would love to hear your thoughts about our election process. You can reach me by email at: Jerry.Andree@CranberryTownship.org