Some facts… in this country, every two years, there are approximately 500,000 public offices up for grabs. All of-age citizens have had the freedom to vote for a full 100 years. According to the 2016 Census Bureau statistics, there were 224,059,000 people eligible to vote that year. Of that group, only 157,596,000 were registered and only 56 percent of those voted in the 2016 Presidential election.
Just over 60 percent of the people who did not vote in that Presidential election reported they were “too busy” or just not interested in voting. My first question, then, is If you aren’t interested who is running things, someone else is. THAT person is probably in line at the polls and are you sure you want their opinion to count more than yours?
In just a few months, Georgetown has an opportunity to go to the polls again. Not surprisingly, when there are no Presidential candidates in the news 24 hours a day, voter turnout is even lower.
Last year, in our city elections, there were 65,773 registered voters in Georgetown. Total ballots cast was just over 3200. By percentage, you have a lot better chance of making a difference on the City Council dais than you ever will over the White House.
My second question, then, is How does the President of the United States affect your life each day? The Governor? Senators and Representatives? The answer, and the point, is that (other than our lousy healthcare system) they really don’t.
But hey, the people who pave your streets, build your stores, determine what your kids will learn, and decide how your taxes are going to be spent, are the candidates who win and lose local elections, in off-cycle years, most often by less than 100 votes.
What I’m trying to say is that we need to be aware, or remember, that it is the off-cycle, small elections that most directly and frequently affect your family and your pocketbook.
City Councils, School Boards and Commissioners Courts determine the tax rates we pay every year, but an impromptu survey demonstrated that 2 out of 3 residents cannot name more than one or two council members or commissioners. And if you wait until you see a name or a project you don’t like in the newspaper, it’s probably already too late to change the course of action.
Ponder this… do you prefer our Town Square to have more shops than bars and restaurants, or the other way around? That’s a Council thing that may actually change when or how often you go downtown.
See, there’s this great new thing called the Internet and you can read about your candidates, literally, 24 hours a day. Even see a photo of them so you know what they look like.
If you are a parent, and your kids go to school here, these “little” elections have a lot to do with the kinds of courses your kids can take, or the type of preparation and opportunities they will have for their future beyond the 12th grade. That doesn’t just hit close to home, that IS your home.
Just for a moment, let’s bring national craziness into our own driveway. In California, primary grade students are being taught the definitions of 15 kinds of gender identity. Are you entirely certain that no one on the Georgetown ballot thinks that’s a good idea?
Calm down… this is still Texas—no one here thinks that. But perhaps you could find out what our candidates actually do think about and what they plan for our students. That’s a School Board thing.
Another observation about local voting reflects our tendency to vote for whom we know. If, for example, voters ignore or are too busy to vote for the latest open school board seat, that familiar name may get a higher tally in the next City Council election on name recognition alone. When he or she slides into a higher office simply because the name has been around a while, now you’re trying to unseat a big-time incumbent with a different point of view, which becomes more difficult.
I’m going to go off-topic a bit because this brings me to the most frightening of name recognition issues in my lifetime… AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She is a name we know because she won’t stop talking. My third question, naturally, is Can’t we just take a page out of the bully book and ignore her until she goes away? This is a perfect example of the damage a low voter turnout can cause. She was elected by a 15 percent voter turnout in her district and now everyone in America knows her name; even suggesting that she may run for President. She is in the news every day because she said something inflammatory or stupid and we all want to make fun of her. But the sad fact is, we are all still talking about her every day. She is never going away. Keep her in mind when you don’t read up on the people running for School Board or City Council or Judge or JP or anything. Not only does not voting help people you don’t agree with gain leadership positions, you also hand them a legitimate platform to spread their message and people have no choice but to listen.
Okay, off my soapbox.
This commentary is not at all an agenda or judgment on any particular idea or person in Georgetown. It’s an article about The Vote and how important it is that we are all interested at every level.
You can’t determine the path of the entire country alone, but where do YOU want Georgetown to go May 4? It matters that you show up—some of our best elected officials earned their job with a margin of fewer than 20 votes. With no electoral college at this level, Every. Single. Vote. Counts.