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The cure for voter apathy? A steady diet of involvement

As I sat at a local watering hole, as often happens, I took part in a conversation.

It was just after the municipal election and we were lamenting voter turnout.

And, I was asked two questions:

• Why don't people vote?;
• What will it take to get people to vote?

According to the Franklin County Board of Elections, only 919 of the 5,707 people registered to vote in the county's municipal elections cast a ballot.

That means just more than 16 percent of registered voters cast a ballot to elect leaders in their town.

These are the same leaders that hire and fire town managers/administrators, the folks who determine how town tax dollars are spent, the people who help secure essential town services, like police protection, and handle the mundane, but utterly necessary items like securing garbage collection services.

In other words, these are the people that have considerable responsibility for the things that impact most Americans on a daily basis.

Yet, turnout for such elections are routinely and historically low.

So, to answer the first question: Why don't people vote?

The only answer can be apathy.

It's the same reason why, more often than not, other than town/county commissioners and staff, I'm routinely the only person who attends government meetings -- the same government meetings where leaders discuss proposals, policies and procedures that impact those they govern.

But, no one shows up.

And, the only reason I can think that folks don't show up for these meetings or turn out on election day is apathy -- or they feel like nothing they say or do will make a difference. That's a conversation for another column.

The answer to the second question is a bit tougher.

What will it take to get people to vote, or get involved?

Obviously, when there are presidential elections -- where sheriffs and congress people and similar offices are also up for grabs -- the interest level in elections often rises.

And, that's generally because those races are run by people with deeper pockets, who have the ability to post newspaper, television and radio ads and do other activities that apparently drum up interest in an election.

But, even then, we don't get anywhere near 100 percent voter participation.

So, what does it take to get people -- the majority of people -- to take part in the election process?

I think our elected officials have to do a better job of showing voters why their participation matters.

By taking part in the election process -- which is more than just casting a ballot by the way -- they get the chance to share with their leaders the issues that are important to them.

If better police protection is an issue, find the candidate who will do the most to improve that.

If improved sidewalks are your thing, find candidates who will make that a priority.

If you want to see your community grow, find candidates and leaders who are willing to approve the zoning you need for your community to thrive.

But, don't just stop at the ballot box. Show up at meetings.

Let your voices be heard.

Let leaders know what's important to you and how they can help put practices, policies and procedures in place that can help a community thrive.

And, so, if we truly want to get people to turn out on election day -- and take part in their local governments -- we have to show them that their involvement matters in their community; that they can affect change.

That's really the only way to get people involved in something.

If people see that their involvement makes a difference, that they're not just a voice that can be ignored or a ballot that can be discarded, they will, more often than not, seek opportunities to get involved and make their communities better.

But, that's just my thought.

Each year, we have elections and each year, we see less than the full involvement of voters in the process.

The same can be said of attendance at town/county meetings. One thing we haven't seen less of, though, is griping about this or that.

So, the real question is this: Are people more interested in griping, moaning and complaining, or are they more interested in making things better.

I guess we'll see at the polls and in meeting rooms.


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Members Opinions:
November 14, 2019 at 5:20pm
"they feel like nothing they say or do will make a difference"

You hit the nail on the head here! The sad part of all of this is the voters keep electing the very ones they complain about!

Even when people do go and speak out at these meetings, no one ever listens! Everything said falls on deaf ears. What is it they say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome?!? Well that is where we are unfortunately.

Once the people are elected they all of a sudden think they know what is best for us no matter how much we disagree! Common sense would tell most people to give someone else a chance when those elected don't listen, but that does not happen either!

I have lived here for 40 years and sad to say this place has not changed much and the few changes I have seen have not been for the better.



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