I guess I shouldnít have been shocked because voter apathy is so rampant in this country, but I was when I saw the election returns from Saturdayís Glen Rose City Council, Glen Rose Independent School District and State Senate District 22 elections.
The council election especially jumped out. Fewer than 200 people cast votes for the six candidates vying to fill three seats on the council. These are the leaders who will make the decisions that guide this city for the next two years of their terms.
It is indeed sobering to see that the person who received the most votes, Johnny Martin, only got 87 of them. Lots of people know Martin, a former mayor and council member. Where were they?
The school board election generated more heated discussion among voters because some people thought the $19.995 million price tag for a new arena, renovated band hall, expanded ag barn facilities and technology upgrades was too high. It attracted several hundred more votes, 581 in all. Still, thatís a fraction of the registered voting base.
The city and school board elections were both held at Town Hall for more convenience and to save money. Was it too much trouble for some people to walk across a hallway to vote in both elections or was the council race just not that compelling?
The statewide race didnít fare much better in turnout. The special election to fill the rest of Republican Sen. Kip Averittís term drew just over 300 ballots.
Even before the election, council member Rocky Terry expressed his concern to me in an interview that the outcome would be decided by less than 10 percent of the voters. There are 5,524 registered voters in Somervell County. Terryís prediction came true, sadly.
Maybe the low voter turnout means the public is happy with the status quo. If so, there should be no grumbling when the new council members ó Martin, Sue Oldenburg and Barbara Mitchell, who was re-elected ó make decisions they donít agree with.
Itís rather nice after living in big cities with nasty, mud-slinging politics to see candidates in Glen Rose who are so respectful of each other. Maybe their civility doesnít generate the kind of fireworks that draw voters to the polls. But I canít imagine many people wanting to see the personal attacks that define so many political races elsewhere coming to roost in Glen Rose, either.
Iím always glad to see the council chamber packed with people during meetings when something controversial is being discussed. It shows they care. But citizen activism shouldnít stop there. It should extend to the voting booth.
What will it take to get voters to the polls? Isnít having a voice in local government motivation enough? If not, we all get the government we deserve.