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Why didn't you vote in the April 7 town election?

UPDATED, April 19:  I'm ashamed of Arlington voters -- not the precious few who showed up April 7, but the far greater number who didn't.

Town turnout, 2000-2018

Of the town's 30,957 registered voters, 4,583 cast ballots. That's 15.86 percent.

That percentage is a marked "improvement" over 2015, when a minuscule 9.1 percent voted.

Where have all of you gone?

In the last four annual town elections, only 12.3 percent of registered voters in town have made it to the polls.

In the era of President Trump -- or any era -- that's pitiful.

What, you can't tear yourself away Saturday-morning cartoons for a little visit to your precinct's polling place? It takes but a few minutes.

 

Back from a family outing to Buddy Dog in Wayland, my wife and I took our two daughters to the Peirce School, where all voted. 

What did you do? Do the usual excuses prevail?

-- I didn't know there was an election.

-- No interesting candidates or issues.

-- The local media do not provide enough publicity.

-- It's on a Saturday, when I was away.

-- Blah, blah, blah ...

Hello! Set those ragged rationalizations aside and face it: You are not taking responsibility. You don't do enough to educate yourself about what you need to know to be an Arlington citizen.

You didn't know there was an election because you have not taken the steps necessary to find out about them: It's not hard: They happen every year about this time.

The fact is, you do not know what it means to be a citizen in a democracy.

That lack of knowledge can have a decided impact on all of us, in ways that anyone who chooses to do so can imagine. Consider reading about what happened to the Weimar Republic in the 1920s.

I could go on this vein, but just look at the chart accompanying this column. It documents the overall voter turnout in town in the 2st century -- an average of 21.64 percent over 19 elections. 

Go back to 1960, when JFK ran for president, and you find that the town's election turnout was an astounding 95 percent. That, of course, was not a town election, yet it may reflect on voting habits that were less distracted.

Here's the question: So how can voting participation improve?

Should 16-year-old be allowed to vote?

Should online registration be permitted?

Is there more YourArlington can do in reporting about the run-up to a town election?

Apart from my complaining, let me ask those who are likely not reading this column: If you didn't vote in the April 7 town election, why didn't you?

You can respond in the comment window below. That means you will have to include your full name, and you may not want to do that.

You can also let me know here >> Put Elections in the subject line. I will write a follow-up column and use your comments, but not your name.

Thank you for thinking about this.


N.Y. Times, June 13, 2017, opinion: Increasing Voter Turnout for 2018 and Beyond 


This viewpoint was published Wednesday, April 11, 2018, and updated April 19, to correct some of the numbers in the accompanying chart.

Town of Arlington to LGBTQIA+ students: You belong
 

Comments

Guest - Stewart Ikeda on Friday, 20 April 2018 13:11
Helpful Voting Information, Processes

Thanks for posting this commentary and question. I was glad to vote this month for the first time as a registered Arlington voter. Having previously lived in places where barriers to voter participation have been mounting, I appreciated that both the registration and polling processes here were fairly easy -- not to mention being able to vote on a Saturday! Still, my polling place had quite low traffic. I know it can be hard to rouse one's self for "off-peak" elections with many uncontested posts, but I tend to think of it like going to the gym -- I force myself to go to reinforce a kind of "democracy habit" -- and try to make it a fun and meaningful outing by bringing my 10 year old along with me, as a kind of civics exercise. To get up to speed, I found the League of Women Voters' evening program with the Select Board and School Committee candidates valuable, and would like to thank them for their effort. Also helpful was a candidates survey that was circulated and published through social media and public Google docs by the School Enrollment Parent Group, which YourArlington might be able to effectively replicate. Discussions on targeted Arlington lists and Facebook groups, focusing on specific topics, were also a good ways to fill in gaps.

Thanks for posting this commentary and question. I was glad to vote this month for the first time as a registered Arlington voter. Having previously lived in places where barriers to voter participation have been mounting, I appreciated that both the registration and polling processes here were fairly easy -- not to mention being able to vote on a Saturday! Still, my polling place had quite low traffic. I know it can be hard to rouse one's self for "off-peak" elections with many uncontested posts, but I tend to think of it like going to the gym -- I force myself to go to reinforce a kind of "democracy habit" -- and try to make it a fun and meaningful outing by bringing my 10 year old along with me, as a kind of civics exercise. To get up to speed, I found the League of Women Voters' evening program with the Select Board and School Committee candidates valuable, and would like to thank them for their effort. Also helpful was a candidates survey that was circulated and published through social media and public Google docs by the School Enrollment Parent Group, which YourArlington might be able to effectively replicate. Discussions on targeted Arlington lists and Facebook groups, focusing on specific topics, were also a good ways to fill in gaps.
Guest - Janet Mosley on Wednesday, 18 April 2018 09:56
More info needed on candidates positions on a wider range of issues

I second the thoughts from Jeff Hadden. I had planned to vote, but then discovered that there were no competitive elections for me to vote on except town selectmen. There was very little information differentiating the candidates in general, and no information on issues I care about such as biking infrastructure, community development, steps Arlington is taking to address climate change such as committing to designing the new high school to be a Net Zero GHG building.

Perhaps in the future YourArlington could gather questions from its readers to ask candidates?

I second the thoughts from Jeff Hadden. I had planned to vote, but then discovered that there were no competitive elections for me to vote on except town selectmen. There was very little information differentiating the candidates in general, and no information on issues I care about such as biking infrastructure, community development, steps Arlington is taking to address climate change such as committing to designing the new high school to be a Net Zero GHG building. Perhaps in the future YourArlington could gather questions from its readers to ask candidates?
Guest - Stephanie Murphy on Thursday, 12 April 2018 10:59
Voting

Spring elections are tough to get people out for, any off-cycle elections are a problem just about everywhere. As for Arlington - maybe include information to go home with every elementary school child in the town. Esp. for the School Committee seats. There is a portion of the population that just doesn't have a stake in who sits on the School Committee and so why should they vote? To me, while voting is a right, people also have the right to abstain without being bullied for it.

Spring elections are tough to get people out for, any off-cycle elections are a problem just about everywhere. As for Arlington - maybe include information to go home with every elementary school child in the town. Esp. for the School Committee seats. There is a portion of the population that just doesn't have a stake in who sits on the School Committee and so why should they vote? To me, while voting is a right, people also have the right to abstain without being bullied for it.
Guest - Jeff Hadden on Thursday, 12 April 2018 08:37
Some thoughts

I voted but I considered not voting as 1) there were very few competitive races; 2) it was hard to distinguish between the candidates in competitive races. I did a super deep dive on local web sites and candidate web sites but it was VERY hard to find differences between Ruderman, Hurd, and Curro. Without being able to differentiate, I was somewhat paralyzed in my decision and almost said, "forget it." 3) I'm much more passionate about voting in national & state elections because the issues are many and well known. For the selectman race, local web sites and candidate sites only mentioned a few issues which provoked little reaction by me.

YourArlington (which is a good resource) could help this by helping delineate the differences in the future and surfacing more positions on more issues.

I voted but I considered not voting as 1) there were very few competitive races; 2) it was hard to distinguish between the candidates in competitive races. I did a super deep dive on local web sites and candidate web sites but it was VERY hard to find differences between Ruderman, Hurd, and Curro. Without being able to differentiate, I was somewhat paralyzed in my decision and almost said, "forget it." 3) I'm much more passionate about voting in national & state elections because the issues are many and well known. For the selectman race, local web sites and candidate sites only mentioned a few issues which provoked little reaction by me. YourArlington (which is a good resource) could help this by helping delineate the differences in the future and surfacing more positions on more issues.
Guest - Peg McAdam on Thursday, 12 April 2018 08:15
Not voting issues

I am new to Arlington, and though I am registered I have yet to go to my polling place. I knew little about the nominees beyond their names and the recommendations by people on my various local lists. Furthermore, I know very little about the structure and process of the Arlington governing system. Why is this election separate from elections which include state / federal representatives?

I am new to Arlington, and though I am registered I have yet to go to my polling place. I knew little about the nominees beyond their names and the recommendations by people on my various local lists. Furthermore, I know very little about the structure and process of the Arlington governing system. Why is this election separate from elections which include state / federal representatives?
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