It’s been said many times, most famously by Tip O’Neill, that all politics is local. People care about the things they see every day in their own neighborhoods — streets and other local services. So why is it that local elections typically have the lowest voter turnout?
The Marion City Council election in 2012 had voter turnout of 306. That was just 25 percent of registered voters. Three out of four registered voters in Marion stayed home that day, not to mention all of the people eligible to vote who aren’t registered. And that was in a contested election with five candidates for two positions. An incumbent, Steve Smith, was voted out of office with 25 percent voter turnout!
Voter turnout still isn’t great in national elections, typically around 50 percent. That is still twice as high of a turnout rate as that 2012 city election, though. National politics has turned, in a way, into a celebrity culture with Barack Obama and John Boehner standing in for Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus. National politicians are on TV all the time and all over the Internet, so we think we know about them.
Here’s the thing, though: you can (and probably should) actually know the candidates for local office. If you don’t know them, most would probably be happy to sit down with you over coffee so you can get to know each other.
Your vote makes a bigger difference in a local election, and local projects have bigger effects on taxes. A $2 million local project and a $300 billion federal project have about the same effects on taxes.
The candidate filing deadline for the city election in the spring is still two months away, noon Jan. 21. If you know someone you are sure would make a great mayor or city council member, tell them so. When the election comes up on April 1, be sure to vote. If you aren’t registered to vote, what’s the hold up?
Meet your senator on Monday
Sen. Jerry Moran will have a town hall meeting and pancake lunch Monday in the Marion Community Center. It will be his 1,000th town hall meeting, and he is having it in Marion because it was also the site of his first town hall.
Whether you agree with him or not, there isn’t a better opportunity to hear straight from the horse’s mouth about Moran’s thoughts on policy issues. It’s also the best opportunity to tell the senator what you think about issues facing the country and affecting rural Kansas. I hope to see a good turnout at the town hall. It is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday.
— ADAM STEWART