Bloomington, Indiana, is a blue dot in a red state, as its citizens like to point out. As a university town, we’re enthusiastic about world cultures and cuisines, not to mention art, music, theater and sports. Many of us are well-educated and generally liberal in our world views. But why don’t more of us vote?
Our election last fall had a voter turnout of 26%, which was the third-lowest in the state. Many potential voters are planning to sit out the coming primary. Those who don’t vote in primaries generally say, with a chuckle, “Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to vote in November against the other party. You can count on me.”
But the primary is just as important as the “big” election in the fall. This is your golden opportunity to select the best of the candidates, the ones who will oversee the future of our city for years to come.
It’s not as if it’s difficult to find out what the candidates stand for. For example, the three mayoral candidates all have Facebook pages and/or web pages where they detail their stands on different issues. At this point, if you have no clue what the three candidates stand for, you haven’t been paying attention.
Some non-voters say: “Well, we don’t like the way this country is headed, and we don’t feel that our votes count in a meaningful way. The system is broken and we refuse to play ball when the game is rigged.”
Well, that could be true, after a fashion, in regard to the national scene in Washington, but it’s definitely not the case here in Monroe County. Bear in mind that a single vote always makes the biggest difference close to home. Unlike in Washington, the political system in Bloomington and Monroe County is fully functional and extremely responsive. A single vote can actually swing an election here.
The mayoral race is particularly important since the mayor chooses the members of the plan commission, which determines the future of development. Look at Bloomington right now. Our mayor and plan commission have supported big development in the downtown area for many years. As a result we now have high-rises towering above the city core whose tenants are all students. Having thousands of young people living downtown has dramatically increased the number of bars and restaurants and pushed out other businesses. Parking is a fraught issue. The number of homeless people whose needs are not being met is also linked to official policies. These aren’t just things that happen at random; they are the direct results of our local government’s choices.
Do these things concern you? If so, you need to vote, and you particularly need to do it in the upcoming primary. “If you don’t vote, don’t complain,” as the old saying has it.