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Thoughts While Strolling (12)

March 30, 2008

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Where’s Everybody? The use of red and blue lawn signs in the recent election campaign reminded us that seeing the nation as divided into two camps—red state voters and blue state voters—can be deceptive. Such categorization ignores the largest single group of Americans—the third camp of those who don’t vote at all for whatever reason. What color should they be?

In the 2000 national election in which Al Gore was pitted against George W, Bush, only about 54 percent of eligible voters actually turned out to vote. In 2004, with John F. Kerry trying to unseat incumbent George W. Bush, despite expensive get-out-the-vote campaigns by both sides, the percentage who voted rose only slightly from the previous election.

Also, in the 2000 election an all-time record was set when more than 80 million eligible American voters failed to vote. That number was far greater by a substantial margin than the total number of votes tallied for either Bush or Kerry,. In fact, no Republican or Democratic nominee has attracted 30 percent of eligible voters since Ronald Reagan’s election to a second term in 1984.

Those who have been unsuccessful in getting American voters to turn out in greater numbers ascribe a reluctance to vote to many reasons, principal among them being an attitude best described as “What’s the use? My one vote cannot make much difference when the total votes are in the tens of millions.”

But how to explain the disappointing turnout in local elections here in Croton, when the outcome can directly affect the everyday lives of voters? In 2007 (mayoral elections take place in odd-numbered years), although 5,084 persons were registered to vote in Croton, only 1,958 persons turned out to vote in an election that saw a Republican majority take control of the Village Board. For those who prefer results expressed as percentages, the fate of the almost eight housand residents of the village was decided by votes of only 38.5 percent of those registred to vote.

The most recent election on March 18, 2008, yielded numbers that were even more discouraging: Of the 4,997 registered to vote only 1,767, or 35.4% of those registered to vote, turned out to vote. These sorry numbers are not an anomaly. Consider the turnouts in Croton in previous years expressed as percentages of those registered to vote:

2006: 31%
2005: 40%
2004: 31%
2003: 41%
2002: 36%

In Australia, which has compulsory voting, and Malta, voting participation reaches 95%, Not far behind are Austria (92%), Belgium (91%), Italy and Luxembourg (90%), Iceland (89%), New Zealand (88%), Denmark (87%). Germany, Sweden and Greece (85%). Compare these with the U.S. average of 54% and we all must hang our heads in shame.

How to Define the Verb Trounce. In the 2008 election the Streany/Minett ticket was trounced in no uncertain terms. Let’s examine the 2008 results and compare them with the results of the 2007 election, just one year before. In 2007, the Democratic ticket was defeated more closely. In the 2007 election, with 3,865 total votes cast for two trustee seats, the Republicans garnered 52 percent of the votes compared with the Democrats’ 48 percent—a more traditional split and a 4 percent spread.

On the other hand, in the 2008 election, the Democrats waltzed away with 63 percent of the 3,533 total votes cast, leaving the Republicans with a paltry 37 percent—not even close with a 26 percent spread between winners and losers.

With such a dismal proportion of the total votes cast, all the Streany and Minett talk we’ve heard about “We’ll be back” is politically unrealistic bravado. Voters simply weren’t buying whatever it was they were selling in 2008, and chances are good they won’t want the same old shopworn promises in 2010.

On March 30, 2008 8:10 PM, TeaDrinker said:

It is evident from this thoughtful and well-researched essay that Americans and Crotonites ought to be ashamed of themselves for failing to take elections seriously. What is more, as the voting population becomes more local, the percentage of those who turn out becomes smaller, when it should be the other way around. In a small village like Croton that prides itself on its quality of life, neighborliness and civic concern, voting should approach 100%.

The sad aspect of articles like this one is that we all cluck about such shameful statistics and then at the next election we nevertheless fail to turn out to vote. In between elections, we complain about the quality of the government we elected. Based on our massive reluctance to participate in elections, we should not be surprised if inevitably we get the government we deserve.

On March 30, 2008 12:30 PM, weewill said:

It’s also interesting to note that all the bravado and not-too-subtle attacks on the Democratic winners has stopped. There had been a steady barrage of letters to the Editor of the Gazette and posts on the awful North County News Republican chat room.

There were more than 300+ posts by only five or six Republican “operatives” in the short six weeks of the recent campaign. These could hardly be defined as more than 300+ gossip sessions between a few misinformed (or uninformed) supporters of the Republican machine.

Does it seem like nasty overkill to others as it does to me? Fortunately the comments got stuck in their own mud and never saw the light of day. So much for their protestations about anonymous postings because only two of these 5 or 6 signed their real names to the posts.

The overwhelming win by the Democrats is a sure sign that Croton residents saw through the not-so-subtle accusations of these few NCN posters. They missed their mark and wound up talking to themselves.

And we all know what that indicates!

On March 30, 2008 11:32 AM, waffels said:

Reading Joanne Minetts “concession” letter to the Croton Gazette kind of says it all as to who she is. I don’t remember if the word thank you was used once in the letter. “Thank to all those who supported me”, “thank you for the opportunity to run for office”. The kind of things normally found in a concession letter. I wonder if she called Ann and Richard to congratulate them on a good win. Probably not. Pretty much all that was conveyed was how she feels she was ripped off, she will keep “watching” and will be back….Please!…Thank you voters of Croton…..



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