Another local election has come and gone.
Did you vote?
Turnout for the city-school election, at least anecdotally at the polling location Tuesday, seemed to be decent. Then, after all ballots were counted, we learned 22.6 percent of registered voters showed up — that’s a little better than one in five people who are eligible to vote. Not outstanding for our city, especially considering we had races for school board, city council and mayor. All have significant impact on the direction, success and momentum of Mitchell.
For comparison, Mitchell had a 45 percent voter turnout in 2012 when there was a mayor race, a one-way street vote along with a state primary. In 2015, the turnout was 26 percent for a city-school and mayoral election. And the last mayoral race, in 2018, had about a 36 percent turnout. Of course, it’s notable that election was the Republican gubernatorial primary race when Kristi Noem and Marty Jackley were on the ballot.
Simply put, not enough people showed up to vote on Tuesday despite all the political interest.
There was no shortage of billboards and yard signs for candidates for these races in Mitchell, seemingly signaling excitement about the election and going to the polls. We thought turnout would be much, much higher. For example, it was the first time in decades that there were six candidates running for school board. There was also impressive attendance and interest for the candidate forum in May.
But converting that energy into actually going to the polling place and making that oh-so-difficult task of marking ovals for the top candidates seemed to be too much for some residents.
What’s so hard about voting?
There was, quite frankly, a lot of criticism and complaining over the last year for members of the Mitchell City Council and Mitchell Board of Education. Members of the public griped at meetings and on the internet about policies, mask rules and restrictions on businesses. Once again, we saw that there’s a big divide between talking on social media and making comments behind a keyboard and actually taking the five-minute effort to vote.
We know that a majority of voters in South Dakota know how to get to the polls. Last November, more than 72 percent of Davison County voters cast a ballot in the general election, which included the presidential election. National politics are important, but the selections of city and school representatives are arguably more critical to our daily lives and the events of the last few years have made that clear in Mitchell.
Please, don’t forget that the world is run by those who show up, those who volunteer and those who participate. On Tuesday, 22.6 percent of the city’s eligible voters had their say.
Everyone else missed out.