Election Day

Nov 8, 2011

My guess is that if you are listening to this on the radio, you haven’t bothered to vote today. That’s a guess, but an educated one. Based on recent history, fewer than one-fifth of those eligible will bother to vote today - and that is too bad for a whole lot of reasons.

Whatever your politics, whether left or right or somewhere in the middle, we ought to be able to agree on this much: Politicians often behave badly when they think voters aren’t paying attention. If you’ve been following Wayne County, you may know what I mean.

How could a county give large “severance payments“ to workers going from one government job to another? Simple. Somebody clearly thought nobody would notice.

Thanks to some diligent reporters, we finally did.

But not very many of us have taken notice of this year’s election - even though polls show that very few of us are satisfied with the way things are going. That’s partly because this is what’s called an off-off year election, one held in an odd-numbered year.

This election isn’t seen as very sexy. There’s no vote for president, or governor, or congress. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. As old Tip O’Neill used to say, “All Politics is Local.”

Statewide, there are races for council and school board and township offices, and twenty-six proposals to raise or renew millages for a variety of things, from special ed to police and fire.

There are a couple places where this election is sexy indeed, most notably Grand Blanc and Detroit. In Grand Blanc, a vast amount of money has been spent, and voters will decide whether to recall state representative Paul Scott from office, in a vote that may be  seen as a referendum on the Snyder administration.

In Detroit, a city plagued by government dysfunction, the voters will decide whether to approve a new city charter that would call for city council members to be elected by districts, rather than at large. Detroiters will also elect a school board, even though the schools are currently under an emergency manager.

In the aging blue-collar suburb of Warren, which has well over a hundred thousand people, voters will decide whether to raise their taxes to fix their roads. South of Detroit, the mayor of Taylor is trying to fight a recall.

Yesterday, I talked to someone in Grand Rapids who told me she didn’t think many people would bother to vote because the popular mayor is expected to be re-elected easily. But I remember an election for governor in nineteen ninety when few voted,  because everybody knew popular governor Jim Blanchard would be re-elected easily. Except that he wasn’t.

Voters will face a primary to fill a vacant legislative seat in Auburn Hills. There’s a race for mayor in Flint, and in largely white collar Livonia, the eighty-two year old longtime incumbent mayor is being challenged by a mere sixty-seven year old attorney.

None of this may sound as interesting as Kim Kardashian, but all of it matters far more to our lives. So - find out what’s going down where you live, and go vote. There’s still plenty of time, you probably won’t face a line - and you’ll feel good that you did.