—-By Frederick A. Hurst—-
We simply do not play up elections the way we once did. That’s how it seems to me. And no elections are less publicized than municipal primary elections without simultaneous races for governor or president. When we go to vote in Springfield’s September 19th primary, we won’t even have the benefit of state candidates on the ballot, only our own local Springfield candidates.
Actually, I shouldn’t say “only” because it diminishes the importance of an election that we should all be participating in with enthusiasm and with a turnout that shows that we understand that those we elect will be representing us for the next two or four years. Yet if past primary elections are any read, the turnout for the September 19th elections will be extremely low, probably in the low teens.
Not only that. Victory in the primary election will probably be determined by one city ward, Ward 7, which historically has recorded the highest voter turnout, always in double digits. And the voters at Ward 7’s Frederick Harris School will provide the fuel because they always turn out in droves relative to the rest of the city, especially in minority neighborhoods where turnout is historically low unless Barack Obama is running for president.
Voters in Wards 4 and 5 rarely turn out in significant numbers in primaries, especially in Ward 4, and there is no reason to expect anything different on September 19th unless something clicks in Black and Brown voters’ minds that leads them to understand that failing to vote renders them impotent. The “I’ll skip the primary and vote in the final election” syndrome is a cop-out that too many minority voters use as a cover for plain laziness. So if you are among those who fail to vote in the primary and end up with a slate of candidates for the final election that you don’t like, don’t cry and don’t look for sympathy. Your tears will be as wasted as your absent vote and you will deserve whoever you get.
For those who are proud enough to be interested in their own electoral outcomes and wise enough to take the time to vote in the September 19th primary, you should know that you will be able to vote for up to 5 At Large City Council candidates and the top 10 of 13 candidates who are running will move on to the final election where you will again be able to vote for up to 5 candidates. If you prefer a particular candidate or particular candidates, you will want the candidate of your choice or candidates of your choice to score high in the primary because it increases their chances of victory in the final election. So failure to vote in primary elections has consequences and is not something to be casually adopted.
The race for Springfield School Committee At Large is a hot primary race. Eight candidates are vying for the four positions that will appear on the final election ballot in November and you will be able to vote for up to 2 candidates out of the 8. You could not only mess around by not voting and cause your preferred candidate/candidates to lose the primary but even if your candidate is one of the top four to move on, you could also place your preferred candidate/candidates at a disadvantage in the final election. The difference between coming in first or fourth is important and your vote can make the difference.
The City Council races in Wards 2, 3 and 4 alone should get folks out to vote, especially folks who want change or who want to maintain the status quo. Two people are running against the incumbent in Ward 2, two against the incumbent in Ward 3 and four against the incumbent in Ward 4. Your primary vote is an opportunity to support change or to maintain the status quo. In each of these wards you get to choose which of two people will run in the final election. The same is true for the primary vote for School Committee for District Two (Wards 4 and 5). These are important choices that shouldn’t be taken lightly by a foolish decision to not vote at all on September 19th.
The bet among the electoral cognoscente is that voter turnout for the September 19th primary in Wards 3, 4 and 5, where Black and Brown voters predominate, will not reach 10% and Ward 7, with a push from Ward 2, will carry the at large election results with a double digit turnout. Why not fool the prognosticators? ■