EDITORIAL: An embarrassment at the polls

·2 min read

Sep. 24—No matter how you spin it, turnout in preliminary elections this month on the North Shore, in the Merrimack Valley, and in Boston, was dismal.

In spite of contests to narrow the field in mayoral races in Salem, Beverly, Newburyport, Gloucester and Boston, three out of four registered voters didn't bother to show up at the polls, in most cases. In Beverly, which saw preliminary contests for mayor and Ward 3 city councilor, just 7.1% of registered voters turned out, something one city councilor called "embarrassing," according to reporter Paul Leighton.

The results in other cities were better but still poor. Salem saw 21.5% of registered voters casting ballots on Sept. 14; Newburyport trudged in at about 22% in its preliminary on Tuesday — even with a three-way race for mayor and a School Committee contest. Lawrence election officials said slightly less than 22% of that city's 39,465 registered voters showed up, even though there were five people running for the two slots in the mayor's race in November.

Even in Boston, with five people of color running for mayor — including four women — the preliminary election brought out just over 100,000 voters, out of about 489,000 who are registered.

What does it take to get more people interested in exercising this great privilege we have as citizens to vote?

In most cities there are candidates forums as well as interviews published in newspapers and on the web and broadcast on local radio and cable TV. Candidates fill their websites with information and often mail out flyers to get the attention of voters. The proliferation of lawn signs makes it clear when elections are coming up, so even the most somnambulistic of voters knows there's something afoot and they might want to learn about it.

But somehow, a majority of voters just didn't take advantage of early voting or stop in at the polls during the 13 hours they were open on preliminary election day.

In every community, most people running for office want to have an impact on their communities and help decide how their taxes are spent, how their schools run, and whether their streets are repaired. Love them or hate them, voters owe it to candidates to hear them out, get educated about them and cast a vote.

Voting is a privilege that should never be taken lightly.

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