Friday, May 01, 2015

A Disturbing Election

I find Tuesday’s election disturbing. By disturbing, I don’t mean the results, although I find them unfortunate in a couple of cases. What disturbs me is the turnout. The turnout was 26.4% of registered voters. I’ve been observing and working on political campaigns in Milton for many years, and as I watched the voter counts throughout the day, it became apparent that something somewhat unusual in recent Milton electoral history was happening.

Common sense and experience indicate that turnout at our Annual Town election will be higher in those years featuring a Selectmen’s race or a School Committee race, and especially in years where both of these important town-wide offices are up for election.

I decided to look back over recent history to assess Tuesday’s turnout in historical context. I looked at the past 19 years, a time period for which I had the information immediately at hand.

During the last 19 years we’ve had 9 elections that involved competitive races for both Selectmen and School Committee.  The turnout in the previous 8 elections ranged from 33% to 45.4%.  This year’s turnout was almost 7 percentage points below the lowest performance of the last 19 years. The average turnout in all 9 elections is 36.4%, a full 10 percentage points ahead of 2015. Elections in 5 additional years during which only one of these offices had a competitive race, all had higher turnouts than this year, with 2004 topping 50% because of a Moderator's race and a debt exclusion override for school construction.

Here are turnout results for the 9 years.


2015 ------------------------------26.4










Now there is no evidence of a trend here. We have one data point that represents a significant drop and we need to see what happens going forward. But it is troubling, and as much as we lament a slight decrease in participation at Town Meeting, a ten point drop in the average voter participation rate for contested elections would offer an even greater cause of concern.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too was surprised and disappointed by such a low turnout. I was at a party last night with mostly Milton residents. Lots of misinformation about the candidates and the issues. I wonder about the demographics of those who voted vs those who did not. Are these demographics different than in years past? Precincts 2 and 3 turnout was smaller than in the past. Does this have to do with redistricting of the precincts and it not being as easy to vote? For example , I used to be in Precinct 4 and could walk to the senior center. Now my same house is in Precinct 3 and I have to drive over to Cunningham Hall. It does not make sense.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am in precinct 2 and voted close to 7PM on election day. It was easy to see as I signed in for my ballot that only two houses on my street (one being mine)had been to the polls. Yet,when I arrived home after stopping at the senior center to vote on my way from work, I noticed most of the houses had voters that were out and about in their yards.
With most of these voters using the Milton school system, one would think that the school committee race alone would bring them to the polls.
It was a lot easier to vote when precinct 2 did not have to go to the senior center to vote.

7:38 AM  
Anonymous Steve Morash said...

Bring back my precincts. Done for political reasons.

When you make it harder for people to vote. People will not vote.

While precinct lines cannot be restored for five more years, the neighborhood polling places can, should and must be restored.

There are costs, and then there are costs. Thus cost us unacceptable.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Selectman and School Committee were both contested races, but not a lot of choice was offered. What were the policy differences between Burnes and Keohane? What distinguished the school committee candidates? If 10% of voters looked at résumé differences and thought, "meh," that does not bode disturbing things for the town.

As for difficulties in voting keeping turnout down: what's the biggest difficulty Milton voters ever face? Long lines. This election, no lines, voters could breeze right in and out. And still, turnout was down.

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Cindy L. Christiansen, PhD said...

Precinct 7 voters should have a location to vote that is on the east side of the highway because of poorly timed lights, non-working crosswalks, and other dangers faced when trying to get from one side of the hightway to the other. Cunningham Park's single lane driveway creates a different form of "standing in line" for the two precinct of voters who are assigned there. Any data on the absentee voter counts over the years?

8:12 AM  

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