Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Power to the people who vote

Imagine a community of roughly 11,000 that has a local government consisting of six elected officials who make all the decisions about taxes that pay for police, roads, parks and more. And then imagine that three of those officials all were up for reelection, without oppostition.

Now, take this leap with me: Imagine that all three of those incumbent members of Elizabethtown Borough Council were reelected in the primary election by a total of 359 votes.

Yes, out of 11,000 people in Elizabethtown, a sheer 359 voted for half of Borough Council in yesterday's primary election. According to unofficial results posted on the Lancaster County Board of Elections' website, I received 94 votes from approximately 1,500 eligible voters in Ward 2. Tom Shaud from Ward 1 received 91 votes, and Phil Clark in Ward 3 got 174.

Earlier this spring, the Elizabethtown Advocate did a story about unopposed candidates and later editorialized about the lack of opposition. The paper made excellent, salient points about the issue. If this year's primary is any indication, the lack of interest in local government now extends to those who vote.

And indeed, it is power to the people who vote.


  1. Thanks for posting this Jeff. Those are some crazy numbers. I started asking myself what's wrong that people don't want to vote?

    Then I started asking myself, why don't people vote? Here are some thoughts that came to mind.
    - Didn't know there was any type of voting going on that day
    - Didn't know what was being voted on. (Who? Some people probably don't even realize who else we vote for other then the USA President)
    - Well informed information on who's running (fact vs. truth)
    - Most people probably don't even know what borough council does.

    My wife and I had a discussion late last night realizing it was an election day and that we didn't even know what elections were going on.

    Where should I be going to find that information?

    Hope this doesn't come across the wrong way. These are just questions I'm figuring out while trying to be a better community member. Thanks Jeff!

  2. Adam -- It doesn't come across the wrong way. Those are all legitimate questions and issues. I think because I consume all forms of media -- social, newspaper, radio, TV -- I assume that other registered voters do, too.

    It takes some effort to be engaged and get information about elections and candidates. I am a big fan of consuming the local media to find out some of the details. To sort out fact from fiction, I recommend finding multiple sources (newspapers, Facebook accounts, candidate websites, talking to the candidates themselves).

    I hope that helps a little.

  3. Jeff, yes it does help out. I may just have to start dedicating some time each week checking out the newspapers online making sure I'm informed!

  4. Encouraging people to vote probably isn't a good idea.

    What would be more useful would be providing more information before the election, so that those who want to vote intelligently can do so.

    Before the election Tuesday, I tried - without luck - to find a sample ballot. How can you research the candidates that are running if you don't know the names? How can you research the issues to be decided, if you don't know what issues are up for a vote?

    If people aren't about to prepare themselves to vote, they are as likely to vote for a scoundrel as a saint, as likely to vote for a scandal as for a reform. People whose names sound familiar get elected, instead of people who have committed themselves to public service.

    The 359 people who voted? They care, and on average, they probably know more than most people about the candidates and the issues. Yes, a broader base of informed voters would be desirable - but adding votes based on ignorance would not.

  5. Harl -- For the record, I'm not suggesting to add votes based on ignorance. There are many ways to get informed: newspaper, TV stations, county elections office, local municipal office (will tell you at least who's running and/or up for reelection). I make it clear in many Facebook and Twitter posts and here that I am an elected official and up for reelection. It takes some effort, but you can get the information you need.


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