Are you suffering from election fatigue?
Have you had more political news than you can handle?
Have you gotten off social media and stopped watching cable news because you can’t take it anymore?
We urge you to refocus on politics – on the local level. The town election season kicks off in April, including votes in six communities next week.
Though they won’t get blanket coverage on CNN or be a top trend on Twitter, these elections are as important to you and your quality of life as anything that happened last November. The candidates are people who live in your town who will decide on your property taxes, on the quality of your children’s schools, on the conditions of your streets, on the response time and efficiency of your police and fire departments.
Unfortunately, turnout for local elections is far below what we witnessed in last fall’s presidential race.
Only 27 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the typical municipal election, the New York Times says, even though city and town governments account for almost $2 trillion in spending annually.
In Los Angeles, turnout was so bad that the city council approved cash prizes to get voters to the polls.
In the Attleboro area, a strong municipal election turnout is about 20 percent. Or, put another way, four out of five voters stay home.
Democracy suffers when smaller groups who may not represent a majority of the community — older voters seeking to hold the line on taxes or parents wishing to increase school spending, for instance — hold disproportionate sway over local government.
A significant turnout is expected Monday in Plainville where voters will decide the fate of a $1.95 million tax increase. A $3.25 million override of the state tax-limiting law known as Proposition 2½ was soundly defeated last year so town officials scaled back the request for this year’s voters.
Two other towns are also holding elections on Monday without the big draw of a tax increase but still with plenty on the line.
We urge voters in those towns to go to the polls to choose their leaders for next year.
Seekonk has races for two seats on the board of selectmen up for grabs. And Wrentham voters will decide three-way contests for the select board and the school committee.
On Tuesday, voters in North Attleboro will choose their second town council since the municipal government was overhauled in 2019. And in Rehoboth, a number of incumbents are not seeking re-election, opening the door to new faces in town hall.
On Saturday, April 10, Norton voters will have two big decisions before them. Like their counterparts in North Attleboro two years ago, they will be deciding whether to overhaul town government. The proposed town charter would disband the town meeting form of government which has been in place since the colonial era and replace it with a town council similar to North Attleboro.
Like in Plainville, Norton voters will face a money question, whether to exclude a $41 million project to build a new town hall, senior and community support center and athletic complex from the Proposition 2½ limits.
These aren’t the polarizing, high drama issues we saw in last November’s elections, but do we really want a repeat of that?
They are important, however, and we urge voters in all towns to take a few minutes to help shape the future of their communities.