Municipal elections take place Tuesday, Nov. 5, in Portsmouth, Dover, Somersworth, Rochester, and other cities around the state. At that time, voters will elect new members to the city council, school board, police and fire commissions, and other elected offices in their communities.
Low voter turnout is a problem in just about every election across the country. A little over 55 percent of eligible voters cast ballots nationwide in the 2016 presidential election, which was a 20-year low.
The problem is even more pronounced, though, in local elections in years when there is not a state general election. In Portsmouth’s 2017 municipal election, only 5,050 ballots were cast, representing less than 28 percent of registered voters (18,127) in the city.
Would more votes have made a difference? Absolutely. There are many reasons to vote in local elections, but here are the top two:
1) YOUR VOTE MATTERS
In the 2017 Portsmouth City Council race, the difference between the final seat and the next closest candidate was just 95 votes. If voter turnout had been just 2 percent higher, it would have been enough to potentially alter that result. There were four candidates who came within 20 votes of each other.
The point is, these elections are often very close. So every vote has the potential to make a big difference.
2) YOUR VOTE MATTERS
I know, that’s the same as the first reason. But I mean it in a different way: Your vote matters to the quality of life and future direction of your community. Although statewide and national elections typically draw much higher turnout, a strong case can be made that local elections are more important, at least insofar as they affect your daily life.
Elected officials at the local level will make decisions that affect tax rates, parking rates, public schools, public streets, public safety, environmental safety, housing development, commercial development, and so much more. As a voter, you’re in a position to help decide who is entrusted to make these decisions.
So, in conclusion, your vote matters. It really does.