After the deluge of voters in the Presidential Primary earlier this year, the recent town and school district elections were a calmer and apparently less appealing exercise in democracy.
We hate to see low turnout in local elections, where decisions are made on what directly affects taxpayers’ wallets and quality of life. But with the local elections coming so close on the heels of the Primary, we can understand if people felt overwhelmed about having to vote yet again – even though it’s a significant part of what makes this America.
Voting takes effort. It’s sad to see that so many residents seem to prefer the slogans of a national candidate instead of paying attention to where they can have the most impact, at town hall and the school district office.
Nutfield Publishing’s towns were all over the map in voter turnout. In Londonderry, turnout was a paltry 12 percent, even though Town Council and School District seats were contested. In Derry, the fourth largest municipality in the state, the turnout was even worse, about 10 percent.
In the smaller towns, Hampstead saw a somewhat higher turnout of 30.4 percent. But that’s still not great, considering the major school construction bond on the warrant. Sandown did even better, with 40 percent. And while Chester operates on a Town Meeting form of government, with no election in March, the Chester School District Meeting March 8 attracted only about 50 voters.
But that’s all a little abstract. To make it more tangible, in Derry, where decisions on the town budget rest with the Town Council, last year’s Council action to make large cuts in public services led to a special election in October that gave people their chance to vote – and they came out in record numbers to reverse the budget cuts.
However, in the March 8 election, just about 10 percent of Derry voters came out to unseat two of the four councilors who favored those budget cuts; a third chose not to seek reelection, and a fourth’s seat was not up this year.
In Sandown, where there was a bitter campaign over whether to pursue leaving the Timberlane Regional School District, less than half the voters chose to offer an opinion in the voting booth.
With more elections coming up later this year, we hope to see residents change their behavior and show up in greater numbers at the polls. We expect that at the Presidential election, but we need it on the local and state level as well.