I was talking to someone about next week’s election and she told me about how her and her husband are making it a daytime date. Their day planned so far: a morning walk with the dog, breakfast and fine coffee at Frenchie’s Famous, and then a walk to Precinct 1, their polling station.
They are on to something: We need to make election day something special.
Is there someone special you can spend the morning or evening with on your way to the polls? Perhaps election could be that unique first date for someone who has recently caught your eye (“Want to go vote and then go out for dinner?”). Have you been trying to get together with an old friend? Need an excuse for a neighborhood walk or bike party? What can you do with others to make election day something to celebrate?
For my part, I’m inviting everyone to Round’s for election morning breakfast. I’ll be there at 8am for a Stan’s Big Breakfast before rolling over to my polling station at Precinct 8 at the Civic Center. Send me a message if you can join me next Tuesday at Round’s.
Voting by the numbers
Certainly, whatever we can do to boost the turnout is needed. In 2009, two local elections ago, only 22% of the electorate voted. In 2011, with a more robust ballot, 39% of the electorate turned out to vote. Yet, even then, the turnout isn’t evenly spread out amongst the different age demographics. My friend and fellow candidate for City Commission, Tim Werner, crunched the numbers recently from the last election.
Obviously, there are many reasons for the low 23% turnout for the 50 and under age demographic. Many people have trouble keeping up to date with local issues in our traveling-twenties (I know I certainly did) and when we turn 30, the good news is that we do become more engaged with our community and our voting turnout bumps up a notch (30% in 2011 for the 31-50 crowd).
Still, 30% is low. If you want your values represented in local policies and budgets, you need to engage and represent. How different age groups see the world and the community has common ground, but is different enough to suggest that certain perspectives aren’t being represented when only 23% of half the electorate shows up compared to 56% of another.
If we are going to have more balanced, inclusive representation, the very basic level of engagement is to get out your vote. Imagine if the 18-50 demographic voted at the same percentage as the 51 to 80 demographic – 56%? That’d be an extra 1,963 votes, or about what it takes for a candidate to win in a close race. Even when we only look at the 31-50 crowd, if 56% showed-up at the polls compared to 30%, that’d add 1,053 votes to normal turnouts. I hazard to guess, the City would be more likely to make progress on some of the dreams shared with me earlier in the campaign with a more balanced turnout.
If you believe robust citizen participation is critical for a strong Traverse City, next Tuesday make a plan and get out your vote…make a commitment here. More importantly, make a commitment with a friend, loved one, neighbor, or co-worker to go to the polls together. Election day is a special day, make it a date.
2011 voter turnout by age demographic:
- 18-30: 295/2,190 voted for a turnout of 13%
- 31-40: 511/2,073 voted for a turnout of 25%
- 41-50: 645/1,834 voted for a turnout of 35%
- 51-60: 1048/2,198 voted for a turnout of 48%
- 61-70: 1062/1,745 voted for a turnout of 61%
- 71-80: 579/871 voted for a turnout of 66%
- 81-90: 341/613 voted for a turnout of 56%
- < 90: 54/191 voted for a turnout of 28%
All together, turnout in the 2011 City Commission election was 4535/11715 or 39%. It needs to be pointed out that 4,500 votes would be considered high for the 2013 election. Indeed, 3,500 would be considered high. That’s unfortunate. There’s latent potential across all age groups for more balanced representation.