The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

September 13, 2013

LEVINE: Election turnout disappoints again

By Scott Levine
Herald Associate Editor

---- — Tuesday proved to be the same old story for school board elections.

Clinton County saw 1,564 out of 33,009 registered voters go to the ballot box. In Clinton, where six people were vying for four seats, 5.2 percent of registered voters went to the polls. If I was being an optimist, I would compare that result to the election in 2011 when only 4.5 percent of registered voters actually cast a ballot.

But in 2009, the turnout was closer to 6 percent in Clinton.

So, recent elections, going back to the mid-2000s, have hovered around 5 percent voter turnout. In the early 2000s, the number hovered closer to 10 percent.

That’s awful. But it’s not just Clinton or Clinton County. Almost all of Iowa’s school board elections register less than 10 percent.

There are many issues, one being the most glaring, that this election is not on the traditional election date in November.

Iowa code states that the election must be held in September and it doesn’t appear that legislators are too concerned with changing that election date. Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker, who was frustrated with Tuesday’s turnout, said there’s no national standard for school board elections. Moving the elections could be a faint possibility, but logistics would make it difficult to pair the school board election with the city election, based on boundaries and polling locations.

Also, campaigning is done much differently than other elections. There aren’t the constant reminders from candidates about other people’s flaws during school board elections.

Like it or not, those are effective, and the constant information, like mailings, commercials and advertisements are a good way to remind people to circle their calendar.

Citizens don’t get that during school board elections. There are a few signs and the PTA held one public candidate forum. But that’s about it.

However, that doesn’t mean information wasn’t available to residents. The frustrating part, for many including us at the Herald, is that in an age where information is more readily available than ever before, it seems that the general population knows less about what’s going on than members of previous generations.

Two years ago, I wrote about this same subject. There were some grumblings that the Herald didn’t cover it as well as we should have, so we increased our coverage. We ran three consecutive days of candidate profiles last week, ran letters to the editor, included stories throughout the nomination process and covered the forum. And, on Election Day, we ran a large photo as a reminder for residents to go to the polls.

This doesn’t include the handful of people that read my column two weeks ago.

So, it was a little frustrating from my end, when I saw online that some people were shocked there was a school board election Tuesday. Lives are busy (trust me, I know, I have two small children at home) but being informed does have an advantage.

And taking just five minutes out of your day could decide whether your children and the community at large have a bright future as they relate to the Clinton School District. Every parent with a child in the district should vote, and having people in place that direct a quality school system, will only help the development of this community.

Unfortunately the people that just complain and don’t know about the many offerings in town or when they can make a difference at the polls don’t read the Herald, so in essence, I’m preaching to the choir.

Residents will have another opportunity in two months to make a difference. City Council elections will be held in November. Don’t forget to get out and vote. You never know how powerful that five minutes can be.

Weekly picks

I got 20 wins last week, but they were pretty much on no-brainers. In the eight games that were toss ups, I didn’t fare so well, but I did make out with a winning record. I’m sure this week will be different.

Iowa and Iowa State play Saturday, in case you haven’t heard. Many people are writing off both teams, and rightfully so, but it’s still early and this game could be a catalyst to a better season.

Or it could be just a blip on the radar.

Either way, it’s usually a great game, so sit back and enjoy this early evening matchup.

Like always, feel free to go toe-to-toe with me, and log on to www.clintonherald.com and click on the College Football Sweepstakes. If you do well, you will be in a drawing for a Dick’s Sporting Goods gift certificate.

Last week’s record: 20-5

Overall record: 42-9

This week’s picks

Stanford at Army; Louisville at Kentucky; Akron at Michigan; Tulsa at Oklahoma; UCLA at Nebraska; Virginia Tech at East Caroline; Georgia Tech at West Virginia; Boston College at USC; Alabama at Texas A&M; Tennessee at Oregon; Nevada at Florida State; Stony Brook at Buffalo; Wagner at Syracuse; Ball State at North Texas; Washington at Illinois; Iowa at Iowa State; UCF at Penn State; Kent State at LSU; Mississippi State at Auburn; Massachusetts at Kansas State; Lamar at Oklahoma State; Maryland at Connecticut; Notre Dame at Purdue; Mississippi at Texas; Western Michigan at Northwestern.

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald.