Did you just miss a chance to vote? An update on April 2017 municipal elections
By Brandon Klugman
While hotly contested special elections for Congressional seats in Kansas and Georgia have dominated most discussion of elections this month, it is important to remember that springtime also marks local election season for many cities across the country. Cities in several states held local elections earlier this month, and it’s worth paying attention to voter turnout numbers in these races. As our CEO, Scott Warren, argued in an op-ed on the Los Angeles mayoral election published in the San Diego Tribune, a functioning democracy requires robust citizen participation, and it remains unclear whether the post presidential election wave of political excitement will translate into meaningful, sustained engagement.
Los Angeles made headlines for the dismal number of voters who came to the polls for its mayoral race, but some smaller cities have seen more encouraging participation numbers in April. A small sampling:
- Evanston, IL set a record for municipal turnout, with 36% of voters participating in its local election, which featured a closely contested mayoral race and a somewhat high profile referendum to increase property taxes to raise money for public schools
- Large crowds turned out for caucuses in Minneapolis, the first step in the lead-up to the fall election that will feature races for mayor and all of the city’s council seats
- Ferguson, MO saw 50 percent greater turnout in this year’s local election than the previous one.
- Framingham, MA has experienced steadily increasing turnout in the past few years’ municipal elections. This spring’s number was 14 percentage points higher than last year’s, which was double the year before.
We can’t predict the future, but we’re hopeful that renewed civic activism that has emerged in the past months translates into high levels of voter participation and broader action. It is also important to note that while the turnout rates in the cities above are promising indications for turnout across the country, disparities between voters and nonvoters persist. Almost across the board, older, wealthier, and better-educated citizens are most likely to vote. Cities should focus their efforts on making sure all eligible citizens are able to cast a ballot, and we all must remember that it is our duty to participate every day and in every election, not just once every four years.
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