Friday, November 11, 2011

I am the 15%...Who Voted

There are Occupy Wallstreeters that are concerned about the 99%.  Well, I’m concerned about the 85% - the percentage of people that didn’t vote in Tuesday’s local election

Elections in my house are commonly referred to the Super Bowl – and not because both highlight people with a horrendous tendency to commit sexual misconduct (see: Cain, Herman; Clinton, Bill; Roethlisberger, Ben; and Favre, Brett).  However, on Tuesday the local election results were not the top story on WCCO’s 10 o’clock new…or the second or third.  It took until about 10 minutes into the newscast for Frank and Amelia to report that it was Election Day.

I will admit that odd year elections typically don’t get a lot of attention.  But that doesn’t mean that they are fifth-shelf news worthy.  

However, it seems like the producers at WCCO were not the only ones to miss the significance of the day.  In St. Paul’s school board and city council elections, only about 30,000 of the Promised Land’s capital city voted.  That is only 15% of the city’s eligible voters.

Ok.  So before I lose it (uuuhh, there I go….), there are a few explanations for the low turn out.  First, people like my brother and Joey are registered to vote in St. Paul but are not living here.  Instead they are living where there are undergraduate golf degrees or wide roads that are difficult for pedestrians to cross.  Of the 213,515 of St. Paul’s eligible voters, this may account for 10% of them.  (They could have voted absentee, too.  Just to point that out.)

We’ve now accounted for 25% of the voters – 10% at college and 15% that casted their ballot.  How about the other 75%?

Assuming some people had day-long emergencies, out of town business, vacations (on a Tuesday, though?), and slim chance of a car problems , about another 10% may have excuses.  That leaves 65% of St. Paulites that coulda woulda shouda voted on Tuesday.

My guess is that the real reason that they didn’t vote: “I don’t care.”  Maybe they would not have been so blunt.  But it’s the same idea.

For as many people that have kids in St. Paul public schools or pay taxes to fund them (aka: everyone), you would think that there would be lots of people wanting to shape the future of public education in the Capital City.  Moreover, everyone is affected by what the City Council does – from the tree that Public Works cut down on our boulevard a few weeks ago, to the golf courses, to plowing, to managing Mississippi shoreline development, to directing all public safety activities of the city.  Not to mention setting tax policies to fund these activities.  And to think that the 65% doesn’t care about these things.
Well that’s not fair.  They probably do care about their children’s education, and protecting their neighborhoods, and cleaning the streets when we get 5 feet of snow this winter.  Which begs the question, still, why didn’t they vote?  

It is tempting to say that “those who don’t vote can’t complain.”  Well, I like the First Amendment and think that they can say whatever they want.  Its just so much more effective to vote, and then have a dialogue from within the political arena than it is to try to steer a system from the outside.  

I don’t expect many of the non-voters vote to be walking around for the next couple of years saying “I’ve made a huge mistake.”  But I am hoping that they realize that they’ve shrunk their chances of making changes to local government and can’t blame anyone else for it.

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