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Our View: If only Tuesday’s voter turnout was sustainable

Published: Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012 5:30 a.m. CST

DeKalb County voters showed up in force Tuesday with an impressive 71.4 percent of registered voters casting a ballot on or before Election Day.

The collective voiced its opinion on races from the presidency (where voters shared the national preference for “Four More Years”) to local ballot initiatives.

It was great to see so many people engaged and exercising their rights as citizens Tuesday.

The question is, can they do it again next election?

Given that the next election is scheduled for April 9 and will involve local candidates who will make decisions about issues in our own communities on a regular basis, the answer should be yes.

But if history is any guide, only a fraction of those who turned out Tuesday will be back in the spring.

In reality, even a turnout half as large as Tuesday’s would be huge for the April election.

In the last consolidated election in April 2011, countywide turnout was a dismal 11 percent, which wasn’t even half as much as the 23.4 percent that turned out for the March primary.

The April 2011 election featured a very close race in the city of DeKalb, where Monica O’Leary won the race for 7th Ward alderman by a margin of 26-22.

The race for the White House has a way of energizing the electorate, and it’s understandable that most people want to have a say in who will lead the free world for the next four years.

But the people we will elect in the coming election – many of whom already are circulating nominating petitions to appear on the ballot – can have just as much effect on our lives.

The quality of our communities – and the size of our tax bills – are directly influenced by their decision-making and stewardship. We neglect to pay attention to local issues and vote in local elections at our peril, often realizing only what’s happened after the fact when it’s too late to do anything about it.

Although many people complain their vote means nothing in the grand scheme of national elections, at the local level, an individual’s voice is much louder.

If a few more people who heeded the call to show up and vote in Tuesday’s election make voting in local elections a regular habit as well, our communities will benefit.

More people who voted Tuesday should stay in the habit of being engaged, buck the trend, and show up at the polls again in April.

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