North Ogden is a community of about 18,000 residents. Since it is a bedroom community with a large number of two-parent households and larger than normal families, minor children make up about 35.2% of the population (see here).
This means that there are approximately 11,600 adults that could qualify to vote in North Ogden. In the 2005 general election, North Ogden had 10,561 registered voters, but only 30% of them bothered to vote (see here). Today, North Ogden has 9,532 registered voters. So, 82% of North Ogden residents that could qualify to vote are actually registered to vote. That’s a good thing. But not very many of these people actually vote.
Yesterday’s primary election narrowed down a field of 10 candidates to six that will vie for three city council seats on November 6 (see results). 2598 votes were cast in the election. Each voter was to vote for three candidates. That means that about 866 people voted in yesterday’s primary election. 9% of registered voters in North Ogden bothered to turn out to vote yesterday.
Frankly, that’s pretty pathetic. In June the city held a special bond election that would have paid for building a cover over a small portion of the city swimming pool at an exorbitant cost. In that election, 2438 ballots were cast (about a quarter of registered voters); 71% of which were votes against the bond (see my post on the issue). People were pretty hot about the swimming pool bond, which would have amounted to a property tax increase of about $31 per year on the average North Ogden home.
But the city council primary election comes along, and it’s a yawner. People can’t bother to find time to even think about it, let alone vote. Yet, the people that end up on the city council will have a far greater impact on the lives of city residents than a mere $31/year property tax increase. Where are people’s priorities?
I’d have to say that part of the problem is a general lack of enthusiasm and information. I received campaign literature from exactly two candidates — on the same sheet of paper. It was a very amateurish production, complete with spelling errors. It was apparently produced by someone that had little experience with a word processor. Even high school student government campaigns produce better stuff than this. Exactly one candidate had a smattering of yard signs throughout the city until the day before the election. Then a couple of other candidates managed to get two or three signs out. The two incumbents, each of whom garnered votes from about half of the ballots cast, didn’t bother to do any campaigning as far as I could tell.
The Standard Examiner published a short article with very brief info about each of the ten candidates a week and a half ago. I am grateful that the local Kiwanis club sponsored a meet the candidates night last Thursday. Unfortunately, I had other commitments and was unable to attend. In short, most of the candidates didn’t seem very passionate about their candidacy and North Ogden residents had little information upon which to base an informed selection.
Perhaps I had somewhat of an advantage over most residents, since I am personally acquainted with five of the ten candidates. All five of those people now advance to the final round, along with one individual that I do not know personally. I personally sought out some of these people and discussed issues with them, since I had so little other information to go on.
Knowing some candidates gave me some insights others might not have, but it still left me feeling unprepared to vote in an informed manner. Even politically active people do not feel good about voting blindly. I’m sure that this led to yesterday’s general voter apathy.
Another factor might be that for most voters, narrowing a field of ten to six isn’t very meaningful. They figure that the selection of any six of them will likely yield a field of at least three they could feel comfortable supporting in November. Since any grouping of six would be fine, why bother to vote, especially when there is so little information available?
Some pundits are extremely alarmed about our nation’s low voter turnout rates (although the rate has been trending higher for three decades in general elections). Others think that it’s just fine that only those that care enough to become informed actually vote. Why should we want election outcomes to depend of people that are ignorant of the issues?
But I believe that it is important for people to want to become informed enough to vote in an informed manner. This should be an integral part of what it means to be an American (as noted in a previous post). To preserve our liberties, it is simply not enough for people to be born Americans. Each citizen must become an American. And fulfilling our civic duties is part of that process.