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Editorial Commentary: Ken Ciboski

Why The Low Turnout At Local Elections?

Carla Eckels
KMUW/File photo

People decry low voter turnout in local elections. In the March 3 primary election for Wichita Mayor and City Council candidates, approximately 20,000 individuals-- only 10 percent-- of nearly 200,000 registered voters cast a vote. Wichita now has a population of approximately 382,000, with 286,000 people over 18 years of age who could qualify as a voter. That means about 86,000 people in Wichita who could be voting are not on the voter registration rolls at all.

The turnout figure for national elections is based on the percentage of all individuals 18 years of age and older, regardless of their voter registration status. If we use this method for determining turnout in Wichita’s recent election, turnout would be even lower, at a dismal seven percent.

People give all kinds of excuses for not voting. In spite of making it easier to be qualified as a voter with efforts such as motor-voter registration, advance voting, voting by mail and absentee balloting, turnout for elections has not surged. Excuses such as not having enough time, that "my vote makes no difference," and that politics cannot help with my personal or family problems are reasons often given for not voting. Not to mention, many people think politics is just a dirty business.

The proposal by some state legislators to move local elections to the fall of even-numbered years possibly would increase voter turnout, but the excuses given for not voting have little or nothing to do with whether the election is in the fall or in the spring.

For me, low turnout isn’t as much of a problem as many people think. I’d rather have low turnout with voters who are educated about elections than high turnout with voters who don’t take the time to learn about the issues and candidates.