Turnout in local elections suggests democracy is losing to apathy:
- Rapid City school election: 33.6% [Update 12:25 CDT: Pennington County election supervisor Lori Severson tells me there are 56,915 active voters eligible to vote in Rapid City school elections. 19,095 voted yesterday on the opt-out.]
- Mitchell city and school election: 26%. (“I am happy with the voter turnout,” Mitchell City Finance Officer Michelle Bathke tells the Mitchell Daily Republic. “Compared to previous years, it is right about average, and that’s OK.” One 46-year Mitchelll resident told KELO-TV that the “crowds” at the polls “amazing.”)
- Meade school board election: 5.9% (with seven people vying for three seats).
- Aberdeen school board election: 3.5% (four candidates competing for two seats).
Hectoring the electorate doesn’t win votes, but really, neighbors? Is who runs the Aberdeen school district so inconsequential that only 700-some people show up to cast a vote in a school district with 20,000 voters? In Rapid City, amidst contentious debates over mayoral candidates and school finance, can two thirds of voters justify shrugging?
South Dakota has its problems with voting rights, but voting in the above elections wasn’t that inconvenient. Folks could stop by the courthouse any weekday since mid-April to cast a vote.
I predicate my circulation of the petition to refer Senate Bill 69 on the basic principle that a law that takes away our choices in elections is bad. These low turnout numbers indicate that, at the local level, a large majority of South Dakotans don’t care if they have choices on the ballot. It looks like I need to knock on more doors and remind people of one basic principle:
Democracy—use it or lose it.