Unlike the direct democracy of ancient Athens, in which all citizens voted directly on all proposed rules and laws, we elect people to represent us and to look after our collective interests and views.
One thing that complicates matters for those elected to public office is when they believe our views are actually in conflict with our own interests, even though we may not believe them. When contemplating proposed legislation, representatives are forced to either incorporate our “mistaken” ideas or write (at their political peril) legislation that reflects what they believe to be in our interest, whether we agree or not.
It gets even worse when a large portion of the electorate does not vote, or are silent and never share their views with their elected representatives by mail, online, in town halls, in public meetings or hearings, or whenever.
When I talk to kids about government, I tell them my big secret – that getting those in government to reflect their wishes depends on the government representatives remembering that they are either listening to you or they are listening to someone else. Silence never moved a politician.
The lack of involvement in or awareness of local issues by our citizens bothers me, as does the lack of voter engagement. My purpose in starting the Pulse of Concord more than nine years ago was to dig into the interests and views of Concord residents and to provide a public platform for a discussion of issues.
Over the next few surveys, I will try to understand why many people do not vote at all and why many who do vote do not vote on local issues. I will also try to better understand how the casual voter makes decisions. Questions on upcoming surveys might include:
What endorsements make a difference in your choice for or against a candidate or issue?
What is the most common reason people whom you know give for not voting?
What influences your friends who you think are not well-informed regarding local issues?
What would be the best way to reach and educate those you consider to be under-informed?
Would it be better if those that you consider to be under-informed simply did not vote?
What public outreach methods might be most effective in moving someone from not caring about local issues to actually becoming aware and involved?
What deference should elected officials in government pay to those who do not vote?
If you are reading this, you are already a massive step ahead of the casual voter in that you have in your hands a local paper with tons of articles about what is going on locally. So what additional questions can you suggest that would best answer the questions:
How do we get people to be better informed?
How do we better motivate them to vote?
And, for the true cynics out there: Should we even bother to do these things? Who would it help, and does it even matter?
Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any ideas.