When is good news not actually so great?
When it comes to voting turnout. Officials in Shawnee County, for example, are excited about the turnout, which was particularly high for an odd-numbered year without a mayoral race.
Voter turnout was “well above our initial projected estimate, thankfully!” wrote Shawnee County Election Commissioner Andrew Howell.
But how high was that voting turnout? A stunning 18.3% (sarcasm very much intended).
In other words, if you had 10 eligible Shawnee County voters in front of you, not even two of them will have cast a ballot. Well, one of them would have. A bit more than 80% of another one would have.
We acknowledge that getting turnout even to this pitiful level has positive aspects. More people should participate in local races across the state and have their voices heard. However, let’s not kid ourselves; 18.3% is not going to win anyone any prizes anywhere.
We’ve used the space before to talk about how crucial local elections are. While so much national attention is focused on the White House and accompanying Washington, D.C., shenanigans, city and county government play an incredibly direct, responsive role in most of our lives. We have a bigger role in selecting candidates, a greater likelihood of changing their minds when it comes to policy, and a greater chance of running for one of them ourselves.
What’s more, local candidates welcome this feedback. They have put so much of themselves on the line to put their name next to that bubble on the ballot. They want to engage with residents on community issues. They want to know what you care about, and why you care about it,
But to play that role, you have to express yourself. You have to make your voice heard. And the simplest and easiest way to do that is to register to vote and then cast and informed ballot in local elections.
We appreciate the Kansas residents who turned out and did just that on Tuesday. Congratulations, you’re way ahead of the game.
But to the Kansas residents who didn’t turn out, you need to do better. Your neighbors and your county need your input. Make sure to register and vote before the next election. And then, please keep voting.