Geary County Clerk Rebecca Bossemeyer said she was “horrified” by the low turnout in Tuesday’s City Commission primary. I was as well.
Junction City has an estimated population of 24,180. Of those, 11,265 are registered to vote. Of those, only 913 voted in Tuesday’s City Commission primary. That’s an 8 percent turnout, and that is a problem.
The common trope is “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.” I don’t believe that to be true at the federal level. At the federal level, and even at the state level, there are so many issues to consider prior to voting that it’s next to impossible for a common citizen to stay informed on each candidate’s stance. This leads to uninformed voting, which is probably worse than not voting at all.
But locally, the issues are usually pretty clear. They affect you every day. Budget concerns, issue prioritization, infrastructure, taxes — we get letters to the editor and comments online constantly about each of these.
And that’s good. Discussion is good. A genuine concern for the direction of the city is good. But what isn’t good is to complain about the state of things and make no effort to change them.
Especially in this primary. There were 10 candidates with an entire spectrum of different views. I certainly anticipated more of a turnout considering the diversity of views available. We did our best at the Daily Union to make sure readers were as informed as could be, presenting lengthy profiles of nine of the 10 candidates both online and in print (the tenth candidate did not submit any information to us).
Maybe we could’ve done things differently, but it might not have mattered.
This week, we published a story of a project Junction City Mayor Phyllis Fitzgerald is leading to clean up litter in town every week. It detailed Fitzgerald’s efforts to get out each Saturday and clean up different parts of the city with the help of volunteers. On our Facebook page, the story drew several comments.
“Nothing she does is going to improve the city’s image as long as there are drug addicts and dealers ruining the town,” said one comment.
“Idea to improve the city’s image: stop taxing the hell out of everyone,” said another.
Another complained about cracked streets and grass growing where it shouldn’t around town. A number of other comments were equally as negative with only two being very positive. If a story about the Mayor taking it upon herself to go out and clean up the neighborhood can draw that much negativity, clearly there is a large amount of unrest in town. Why didn’t more people get out and vote?
The good news is you have another chance in just a few months. Nov. 7 is the general election, where the six City Commission candidates that advanced Tuesday will square off, along with school board candidates and the new high school bond issue.
Hopefully by then, more than 913 of you will feel compelled to come out and vote. If not, you shouldn’t complain.