In a world where 100 is perfect, 14 is a fail.
That’s the way it is in school, remember? 100 percent is an A. An excellent grade. Super.
14 percent, however, is an F. Which means fail.
Rio Rancho gets an F when it comes to voter turnout during midterm local elections.
We can get practically rabid over presidential elections. Trump-Biden 2020 hit 66.8 percent. Emotions were all over the place.
Not so with local midterm elections.
The low voter turnout in Rio Rancho means that barely a slice of the city’s roughly 105,000 residents made what amounts to some very important decisions that affect the future of, well, everybody. That 14 percent just elected a mayor, city councilors, approved bonds and a permanent fund.
Voter apathy is one thing. But a 14-percent turnout for an election – any election — is an F.
This isn’t the first time that Rio Rancho local elections have had a poor turnout. In 2018, The final official public count for the 2018 Municipal Election was 10,102. With 61,249 registered eligible voters, there was a 16.5 percent voter turnout.
Nor is it uncommon in the U.S.
According to the Knight Foundation, which studied the problem, even large cities for mayoral elections can’t seem to get people to turn out and vote. In the 144 largest cities in the U.S., turnout slid from 24.9 percent in 1999 to 21 percent in 2011.
Low voter turnout among millennials is part of the problem, the study says. A millennial is anyone born between 1981 and 1996.
Voter turnout during the 2014 midterms, the study says, “was the lowest it’s been in 72 years (36.3 percent). It was even lower among millennials (21.5 percent).”
Part of the problem, Knight says, is:
- Millennials report lower levels of trust in government than the general population. Sixty percent of people say they trust local government a great deal or fair amount compared with only 33 percent of millennial voters who reported trusting their local government a great deal or fair amount.
- This same survey found that only 29 percent of millennials believe that political involvement of any kind rarely has any tangible results and the same small percentage found the idea of working in public service appealing (Harvard Institute of Politics, 2014).
On the local level, factors include
- Less local media coverage: A recent study found that a diminished news environment depresses citizen engagement. With recent cutbacks to local and state journalism, voters have less information to evaluate candidates and ballot initiatives and ultimately are less likely to vote.
- High mobility among millennials: Research shows high mobility decreases political participation and this likely impacts millennials most since they move more often than any other age segment (Lake Research Partners, 2014).
- Low rates of homeownership: Studies have pointed to a correlation between home ownership and increases in local voting, with homeowners who have lived in the community for a long time voting at higher rates. Since millennials own homes at lower rates than other age groups, this may depress their turnout.
In a survey, 75 percent of millennials said that they don’t have enough information about the candidates. Some 62 percent said they don’t know enough about local issues and 40 percent said there’s not enough news coverage of local elections.
But we can’t blame millennials for low voter turnout in midterms. Seems there are plenty of Boomers who don’t get out and vote either.
Other studies factor in ethnicity, age, income, gender. Women vote more than men, for instance.
In an interview with the Observer, one voter said that he had to find out about the March election on the Rio Rancho Police Department Facebook site. The Observer covered the election pretty extensively, but that didn’t seem to spur votes.
The fact that this is a widespread problem, doesn’t make it OK. Indeed, in any way that you look at it, 14 percent is still a fail.
The question in Rio Rancho is why? Do people not care? Do people not know?
Do people feel their vote doesn’t count, and so don’t bother? Was this election not competitive enough?
Was the fact that an election was forthcoming not communicated well enough?
Seems to us, local elections are the ones that have the most direct impact on residents’ lives.
According to the Knight Foundation: “Local government often has more real-world impact on the everyday lives of citizens than other levels of government. Police departments, libraries and schools all fall under local government jurisdiction, and for homeowners, local government significantly affects their cost of living through taxation. Even the White House says: “Most Americans have more daily contact with their state and local governments than with the federal government.”
If you really want to make a difference. If you really want to be heard. Get off your duff and vote. It can be the difference on your cost of services, cost of living and quality of life. It’s the stuff that affects you the most.
In a world that strives for 100s, let’s not be a 14.