Ballot Questions

Westporters love national elections.  So many of us vote, in fact, we’ve won awards.

Local elections — not so much.

“Very poor” is the way Katy Goldschmidt — a former League of Women Voters president — describes turnout in non-presidential years.  Slightly less than 50 percent in years (like this one) with a first selectman race, it dips to the mid-30s every 4th year, when even that office is not up for grabs.

Perhaps attractive models in t-shirts would encourage some people to vote.

Perhaps attractive models in t-shirts would encourage some people to vote.

“Everyone has an opinion” about the underwhelming numbers, Katy says. Hers is that voters are “bombarded” with information about national elections — but “it takes extra effort to make decisions about local candidates.  People have to do the digging on their own — but they don’t.”

In addition, she says, “people don’t read newspapers anymore.  They get information in different ways.”  Groups like the LWV, she says, “have to explore how to get information about candidates to voters.”

Katy considers voting “a moral issue.”  Except for selectmen, local officials are not paid.  Voting, according to Katy, “is a way of  saying ‘thank you’  for keeping the town running well.”

And, she adds, “you’re not fulfilling your role as a citizen if you don’t vote.”

The LWV has made a concerted effort to get people to the polls.  A “My Town, My Vote” event received excellent press.  But — perhaps deterred by stormy weather — few voters showed up.

Katy was heartened that, at a recent forum, write-in candidate John Izzo said:  “Even if you don’t vote for me — get out and vote!”

“We try,” Katy said.  “We’ll keep plugging away.”

(Election Day is Tuesday, November 3.  Click here for the LWV’s Voter Guide.)

4 responses to “Ballot Questions

  1. Many thanks to Katy and the Westport League of Women Voters for everything they do to aid the voter. Remember that you can take the League Voters’ Guide to the polls and don’t forget to vote for the RTM.

  2. Charlie Haberstroh

    The beauty of off year elections is that it enables voters to focus on the local issues. The bad news is that for some reason voters apparently think that Federal and State elections have more effect on them and they vote in larger numbers in those elections. Ironically Westport voters are incredibly well informed as voters go but the off year elections still show much lower turnout. It is difficult to fathom, especially given the dedication and efforts that local elected officials (nearly all of whom are unpaid volunteers) demonstate. Let’s hope that efforts on blogs like yours help incite more voters to vote on November 3rd.

  3. To most Westporters, the New York Times is the local paper. Although they live within the Town limits, Westport is not the center of their lives. So unfortunately, there is little attention paid to local issues (or politics) until there is a direct threat on an individual’s quality of life.

    Re this years election… unfortunately in the most prominent race, choices are limited. With Gordon, Town has a clearly unpopular (amongst those who do pay attention) First Selectman. Unfortunately, the local GOP chose to nominate a candidate with no discernable difference on major issues. While John Izzo may differ on issues, he isn’t on the ballot and has no practical chance of election. What’s this all give you? Voter apathy.

    Even in the BOE and BOF races, for what are you really voting? With a Town Charter that allows only a bare partisan majority on Boards, you are really only voting to decide one race. And given the GOP’s track record of desperately avoiding the perception of being against Ed spending, the GOP has provided no evidence of being practically different from the Democrats on spending issues. (The message seems to be “trust us, we will be fiscally conservative if you give us control of the BOF – even though we have not especially shown evidence of that restraint in years.” or as one GOP BOF member said to me five years ago “we’re looking toward the future.” Okay, well that’s done us a helluva lot goot for the last five years).

    Finally, the RTM elections. Out of nine districts, five have uncontested races, three have five candidates for four seats (can anyone really call that contested?), and one has six candidates for four seats. So practically speaking, of the 36 spots on RTM, only 5 are truly up for grabs.

    So I ask, are we really surprised at voter apathy during the local election cycle?