Breaking down our non-vote

I know speculation has already turned to Chris Christie versus Hillary Clinton in 2016 (see the latest poll numbers), nevermind Gov. Dannel P. Malloy against somebody a year from now, but allow me to reflect one more time on a little ancient history - the local elections held 12 days ago.

More precisely, I write about the lousy turnout. Secretary of State Denise W. Merrill announced Wednesday that, on average, about 31 percent of registered voters turned out for the local elections in their towns. Pre-election, Merrill was predicting 30 percent. So the turnout beat expectations. Yeah!

Some local turnout numbers:

Lyme, 15.5 percent

New London and Waterford, 21 percent

Norwich, 23 percent

Ledyard, 24 percent

Groton, 27 percent

Preston and Montville, 28 percent

Salem, 37 percent

Topping the local list in terms of getting people to the polls were Stonington, with 39.5 percent, and North Stonington, 43 percent. The first selectman's race in Stonington featured a sexting scandal, while in North Stonington incumbent First Selectman Nick Mullane faced Bob Testa for a third time and won for a third time. The unscientific conclusion is that tawdry allegations and rematches increase turnout.

But even in those races the vast majority of citizens stayed home.

Yet all these local communities can feel better about their electoral involvement by comparing themselves with Hartford. It is sort of like a fat person concluding they are not so bad by standing next to an obese person. It's worked for me, try it.

In Hartford, 5.2 percent of those registered, voted. All hail democracy! No one elected to the Hartford council can claim a mandate, more like a lunch date, with white bread and ice water on the menu, hold the ice. Congress has a higher approval rating than that, at 9 percent. On the other hand, Norwich can boast that, percentagewise, 4.5 times as many people voted there than turned out in the state's capital city.

Given this persistent phenomenon, one that appears to grow worse with time, I decided to research the Top 10 reasons local citizens gave for not participating in the local elections (I know, every columnist borrows this Letterman shtick at some point).

The Number 10 reason for not voting: I live in North Stonington and Nick Mullane always wins anyway.

Number 9: None of my Facebook friends said anything about an election.

Number 8: I was too upset with Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom for not doing more to stop the federal government shutdown.

Number 7: I pay too much in property taxes as it is, do I have to vote too?

Number 6: I get all my political news from Fox/CNN/MSNBC and they did not say a thing about the Montville election.

Number 5: I was stuck on the Obamacare website.

Number 4: I was so disgusted with the way the local politicians were running this town that I sent them a message by boycotting the election.

Number 3: Only those old-fashioned newspapers write anything about local elections, and who takes the time to read them anymore?

Number 2: I'm sorry, but I am too concerned about how my kids are doing in school to take the time worrying about who should be on the Board of Education.

And the Number 1 reason people don't bother voting in municipal elections: There was an election?

Paul Choiniere is editorial page editor.


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