Halloween always takes place a few days before Election Day, which makes me wish that at least as many people interested in trick-or-treating would show interest in voting.
Municipal elections, which will take place on Tuesday, are typically low turnout, which is a shame because those are the elections that have a more direct impact on individual lives. They have an impact on the taxes you pay, the quality of education for your children, the overall quality of your community. But national elections draw the greater headlines and television and Internet attention.
Municipal elections may have a hard time attracting the interest of local voters, but outside interests are increasingly finding it attractive to try to influence local politics. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling allows groups, including corporations, to spend limitlessly for or against campaigns as long as they report the spending.
That had at least some monetary impact in the 2012 race between Leonard F. Suzio and Democrat Dante Bartolomeo for the 13th Senate District, in which the Republican incumbent was defeated. Groups spent money in favor of both candidates.
That type of influence is likely to increase. As a recent story by the Associated Press declared: “No election may be too small or too local for the independent political groups vying for influence in the United States.”
The story focuses on Coralville, a small community of 19,000 next to Iowa City. Americans for Prosperity, an organization backed by the Koch brothers, has been aggressively contacting residents in an effort to turn the municipal election into a referendum on the city’s $280 million debt. A local Democrat called the group a “Frankenstein Monster” created by loose campaign finance regulations, according to the AP.
Significantly, at the last similar municipal election in 2009, fewer than 1,300 residents of Coralville turned out to vote, the news organization reported.
That means, as an AFP coordinator told the AP, “you don’t have to change a lot of minds to change the results.”
In other words, voter turnout makes a difference.
As far as I can tell, the type of attempted influence going on in Coralville is not evident in these parts, but what’s clear is that a healthy citizenry is a voting citizenry.
There are vibrant races here that deserve a vibrant turnout, including mayoral contests in Meriden and Wallingford.
In Wallingford, Jason Zandri, a Democratic town councilor, is attempting to unseat Republican incumbent William W. Dickinson Jr., who has held the office so long I’d have to look it up.
Zandri clearly sees voter turnout as an important element to his chances. “The most impactful voters are the ones that show up” read a recent political advertisement. He’d like the ones who show up to include younger voters.
Despite his curious attitude about technology, Dickinson at the helm is something Wallingford voters have repeatedly shown they like.
But Zandri’s drive to increase the turnout at local elections is to be admired. No matter which way the vote goes, if his goal of seeing the turnout reach 50 percent is realized it would be a victory.