We are fast approaching Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 8), which means that it’s time for a little discussion on exactly why we here at The Spotlight get so agitated about seeing folks head to the polls every year.
It’s certainly no secret Americans are not voting as much as they used to. Whether that has to do with quality of politicians, our go-go lifestyle or too much television, we can’t honestly say, but we can say this is particularly bad in local election years like this one.
To use a handy example, in 2009 something like 60,000 people across Albany County headed to the polls to select their local leaders. That sounds pretty good until you consider the fact there were nearly 200,000 registered voters in the county at that time, for a voter turnout of around 30 percent.
(Oh, and by the way, right now there are about 60,000 county residents of voting age who evidently haven’t even bothered to register to vote. The numbers are similarly poor in other parts of the area.)
Things looked a lot more impressive in 2008, when there was the highest turnout by percentage since the ’60s, driven on by a remarkable presidential race. But the assumption that the contest would be the precursor to a new era of heightened political awareness has, for the most part, not come to pass. If more people are getting involved, it’s to weigh in on national issues, not local ones.
They should, though. At the end of the day what your local government is doing may very well have a bigger impact on your day-to-day life. Local governments pave and plow roads, maintain sewer lines and police our communities. They also levy taxes, so on Election Day the people who vote are literally controlling who is behind part of that dreaded property tax bill.