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Incumbents Safe in Aberdeen, DFP Endorsements Win 4 out of 5!

Aberdeen is apparently satisfied with the local status quo. Every incumbent on our local ballots won last night, and 90% of my neighbors are not concerned enough about the state of affairs to bother voting.

In results that should disconcert my political opponents, my voting neighbors agreed with four out of five of my endorsements. I said reëlect Mark Remily and Mike Olson to the city council, and voters did so. I said reëlect Brian Sharp to the school board and send Aaron Schultz to join him, and voters did so. The only DFP endorsee not to win last night was Thomas Black, who lost in my northwest district to Dave Lunzman, whose background in the Jackley DCI could be seen as another sign of local satisfaction with the status quo.

Voters also reëlected Clint Rux to a southeast district council seat and Kevin Burckhard to a school board seat. I withheld endorsements from those candidates based on their unwillingness to respond to interview requests. But we can at least take comfort in the southeast district’s rejection of Rux’s opponent Kaleb Weis, who came out of the gate waving his religion as his primary qualification for office, slouched grimly through the one public candidate forum on May 6, sent out a card depicting himself and tag-team partner Tim Prater in front of the county courthouse instead of City Hall, then tolerated un-American anti-refugee bigotry without any challenge on his campaign Facebook page. We should be relieved to see Weis’s Trumpy slogans and xenophobia kept out of our practical city council chamber.

But watch out for Lunzman: he used the code words “assimilate” and “extreme vetting” in his campaign. (Lunzman said we should use “extreme vetting” on immigrants coming to our community just as we vet people who come into our homes. First, as has been said multiple times by multiple news outlets, the United States already has one of the strictest refugee entry processes in the world… or at least did when we had a competent President. Second, does Lunzman really take fingerprints and conduct criminal background checks on people who enter his home?)

The greater disappointment than Lunzman’s election is the failure of most voters to participate. With five candidates for school board and ten candidates hotly competing for city council, turnout remained typically abysmal:

  • School board Burckhard/Schultz/Sharp/Wise/Santema: 1,867 voters out of 19,597 eligible = 9.5% turnout.
  • City council northwest Lunzman v. Black v. Jones: 437/3,987 = 11.0%.
  • City council northeast Remily v. Washnok v. Bunke: 548/4,631 = 11.8%.
  • City council southeast Olson v. Prater: 525/4,230 = 12.4%.
  • City council southeast Rux v. Weis: 539/4,230 = 12.7%.

Hmmm… perhaps longer names depress turnout?

At least we’re not as apathetic as Sioux Falls. Their school board election, complete with the chance to vote for another Mickelson, only drew 4% turnout… but that was with no coinciding municipal election to draw voters. 11.3% of Pennington County voters turned out for their various local elections.

Even when things are going fine, as Aberdeen voters signaled yesterday, we should still see better than one in ten citizens voting. We dodged the bullet this time, but the majority sitting home makes it possible for a tiny disgruntled minority driven by a destructive agenda to take over the government.

Whenever I give students tests, I tell them not to cheat, “because the person sitting next to you is dumber than you are.” Don’t let the dummies next door make your decisions for you. Get out and vote, every time.


  1. Porter Lansing 2017-06-07 08:25

    How about a compromise? What if the good citizens of Aberdeen could sit home and vote at their kitchen table with a GOOGLE and a lemonade and conversation with other family members voting at the same time? *This IS the 21st century, folks. New things aren’t really that scary, are they? If you trust your friendly, neighborhood mail carrier then mail in ballots will increase voter participation and make for better governance.

  2. Donald Pay 2017-06-07 08:42

    I don’t know anything about the candidates, but I do know that turnout was low, very low. That means that the will of the people was not heard. A turnout of 12 percent is an insult to the flag of the United States of America. It is far, far worse than burning the flag.

    Voter suppression laws are terrible, and I’m including voter ID as suppression, as well as voter registration laws that require a lot of bureaucratic hurdles. Voter suppression laws are a transparent attempt to disenfranchise people for political gain.

    As bad as voter suppression laws are, they have far less impact than voluntary voter suppression: skipping voting altogether. That brings me to a a solution to this problem: mandatory voting.

    Mandatory voting is done in Australia. You are compelled to show up to the polls and cast a ballot, or you face a penalty.

    Mandatory voting takes care of another issue as well. If everyone of age to vote is compelled to show up at the polls, or cast a ballot in another way, there is no danger of voter fraud, and no need for any laws that make it difficult to vote. If everyone casts a ballot we account for everyone and there is no ability to misrepresent your identity. If you do, you will be caught.

    Notice that you have to show up at the polls and cast a ballot. That doesn’t mean you have t mark it for every or any race. That is still up to you.

    The downside is that it may cost more to print the ballots and administer the election. But that is a cost that any representative democracy should bear willingly.

  3. Don Coyote 2017-06-07 09:40

    @Donald Pay:”Mandatory voting is done in Australia. You are compelled to show up to the polls and cast a ballot, or you face a penalty.”

    How will forcing apathetic and uninformed people who don’t give a rip about politics/elections make them more engaged and more informed? Mandatory voting and penalizing citizens is risible.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-06-07 17:25

    Donald, before we move to compulsory voting, could we try all the policy measures we have available to remove barriers to voting? Will Porter’s voting by mail bring in more votes? Will making elections official holidays?

    I’m uneasy with compulsory voting, not because I take Coyote’s anti-democratic attitude that many citizens are ill-equipped to vote, but simply because I’m not ready to compel performance of that democratic duty. However, I like this portion of the article Donald cites, giving one good apparent outcome of compulsory voting:

    In a compulsory election, it does not pay to energize your base to the exclusion of all other voters. Since elections cannot be determined by turnout, they are decided by swing voters and won in the center. Australia has its share of xenophobic politicians, but they tend to dwell in minor parties that do not even pretend they can form a government.

    That is one reason Australia’s version of the far right lacks anything like the power of its European or American counterparts. Australia has had some bad governments, but it hasn’t had any truly extreme ones and it isn’t nearly as vulnerable to demagogues [Waleed Aly, “Voting Should Be Mandatory,” New York Times, 2017.01.19].

    Australia penalizes voters $20. Hmm… how about we implement a Democracy Credit, available as a tax deduction based on the personal expense of subscribing to the newspaper, spending time reading Dakota Free Press and other reliable election news sources, and taking time to vote?

  5. Donald Pay 2017-06-07 20:48

    I think anything we can do to encourage people to vote is great. Laws would have to change to implement your Democracy Credit. As laws stand now, that might be considered a bribe. In Wisconsin we have same day registration, which makes it possible to do everything in one trip to the polls on the day of the election. There’s no extra trip required to get registered. In Dane County you can register and vote early at any library. I don’t like early voting, and the research indicates it doesn’t really increase turnout, and it may actually depress it. Others feel it is just being voter friendly.

    But I don’t think efforts at cajoling people to the polls is adequate. Voting should be a compulsory duty of every citizen, because elections should elect representatives of We The People, not elect representatives of some self-selected people. You can’t have a democratic republic if only 12 percent of the population vote. In that case the elected governing body is definitely not representative.

    I vote in every election, but I feel as if my vote is wasted when there is a low turnout. Some people think their vote counts more, if everyone but them stays home. That’s what I call tyranny. I want an elected body that truly represents We the People, not just a self-selected elite.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-06-08 20:59

    And I will agree that the “cajoling” of a tax credit doesn’t work well if it’s just a deduction, since lots of people don’t bother itemizing deductions.

    Part of me is certainly tempted by the prospect of being the only one voting. Sure, Aberdeen, y’all stay home, let me and my fellow thinkers elect everybody. But I know better than to give in to that temptation. Democracy works best and is most legitimate when everyone shows up.

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