I bumped into an old friend the other day who I hadn’t seen in quite some time. I mentioned to him that I was running for Board of Selectmen this year, and he confessed that he doesn’t really know what that means and that he doesn’t get involved in local politics much. I was genuinely surprised to hear that someone I know to be knowledgeable and in touch with national politics was so out of touch with local politics. I left the conversation politely, but it got me thinking about municipal elections and why I believe they matter more than the large national contests! Let me explain . . .
- Fewer people vote. This means your vote makes a bigger impact in the election results than in the big national elections.
Bolton has about 3,400 registered voters. In 2015, only 1,469 of these voters cast a ballot in the municipal elections. That’s only about 43% of the voting population of our town! What’s more, that year the race for First Selectmen was decided by only 57 votes. 57! The vote was even closer for the BoS members, where the margin was only 33 votes! And the Board of Finance? There the election was decided by single digits! Truly, in a municipal election every vote makes a huge difference.
- Your First Selectman will likely have a larger impact on your daily life than your president. It’s true. Listen, I’m not trying to say that voting for president isn’t hugely important. But, you can’t call the president to ask about having a new stop sign installed at a dangerous intersection. The president doesn’t have anything to do with getting communications from the resident state trooper, nor does he get any say at all in how your property tax is being spent. Your First Selectman does all those things.
- You know and can influence candidates in a local election. The people who run our town, and who make decisions about how our town works, are also our neighbors! You will run into us at soccer games, at concerts on the green, and on Friday nights you’re likely to find me or my husband at Jao Praya picking up dinner. And you know what? If you get us talking, we listen! Have an opinion about the East Coast Greenway project? Strike up a conversation! Curious about all the work you’ve seen going on with the natural gas pipeline? Ask! We are your neighbors, and we care about the town just like you do. Get to know us, and next thing you know, your idea could be making a difference around town.
So why don’t more people vote in local elections? I’m not sure! One reason might be that we see much less communication about local elections. There is no endless stream of political ads during primetime TV shows. The Hartford Courant isn’t publishing articles every day about each of the candidates. It’s just not as “in your face” as the national elections. But that doesn’t mean it’s less important. Sandy, Kim, and I are doing our best to share the knowledge, communicate about the race and the candidates, and get people involved in our community. I hope you’ll join us too!