Municipal elections in Illinois took place this past Tuesday. In my suburban community of just over 53,000 residents, here are the results for the two races:
In races for two important local positions, voter turnout was relatively low. Of the roughly 41,000 adults in the community 18 and older, the mayor was elected by 3,617 voters while his opponent had just over 3,200 votes. In the councilman race, the numbers are a little harder to interpret because voters could select two but the numbers are certainly not much higher. Overall, under 20% of adults voted (hard to know how many are registered) and less than 10% of those adults selected the next mayor.
Perhaps there are a variety of factors at work:
- Do residents/voters believe that municipal elections matter? What do local officials do anyways?
- Holding municipal elections separately from larger races – state and national races that tend to get more attention – could lessen enthusiasm.
- Perhaps the candidates are not that exciting (the two mayoral candidates shared multiple characteristics) or they are unknown to broad swaths of the community.
Low voter turnout is now common and it may not take much to be voted in to local office. But if suburbanites claim to value local government, it is not hard to see the disconnect between choosing local leaders and wanting to maintain local control.