Maybe We Shouldn't Wait Until Election Day To Tell People To Get Involved?


Today’s election day for the North Dakota primary ballot. None of the candidates for statewide office are facing primary challenges, but there is one statewide measure to be settled (pushing the due date for ballot measures out to 120 days before the election from 90 days) and numerous local races.

So the message we’re getting on social media, and from the traditional media, is “go vote.”

“Today’s election is important to the future of Minot,” writes the Minot Daily News in an editorial today. “A new mayor and the city council, Ward County commission and school board, all potentially with new members, will help shape the future of this city.”

It’s the day when your influence as a voter and taxpayer will be at an all-time high,” the Grand Forks Herald opines about today.

It’s not a vote for president, but in many ways Tuesday’s election is even more important,” writes the Bismarck Tribune. “The leaders chosen will have the power to decide whether we pay for a new jail, whether we need new classrooms, whether we have a new park in our neighborhood.”

This is all well and good, I suppose. We live in a democratic society, and it is our civic duty to take a hand in our own governance. But we need to stop pretending like going to the polls on election days and posting a selfie with your “I Voted” sticker on Instagram is enough.

Truth is, if you haven’t been paying attention to your local school board or city council over the last year, if you haven’t taken the time to read the statewide measure on the ballot today and understand its implications, and if you don’t really know whom the candidates running for the city council are you probably shouldn’t be voting.

Turnout in this June election is expected to be low, and that’s not surprising with only an un-sexy ballot measure and a bunch of local races to be decided.

But turnout should be higher. People should care about who is on their park board or city council, or who is mayor of their city. These people have a great deal of influence on policy which impacts your day-to-day life. Plus, a lot of people who start their political careers on the local park board end up running for higher office.

Voting matters, sure, but only if you know what you’re voting for. If you’re just tuning in on election day, if you’re just going down to the polls because you saw a bunch of your friends posting about it on Facebook and you want to be a part of it, you’re really not accomplishing anything that’s beneficial for our communities.

You really should do us all a favor and stay home.