Last week I wrote about why in city and school board elections we don’t address partisanship. If you haven’t read it, I hope you’ll take a minute to grab that column, where I told you what isn’t important to me.
This week, we need to talk about something that is relevant when looking at local candidates for public office: voting records.
Our voting history is a matter of public record. While our ballots themselves are secret as a way to ensure that votes are not bought and sold, the fact that we voted or not is easily retrievable.
I’ve always thought that the greatest predictor of what a person can and will do is what the person has done in the past. When I see someone with a solid record of turning out to all elections — national, state and local — that tells me that a person tries to be informed about their government, has an opinion on how things ought to be, and has the follow-through and care to actually go to the polls and do their part to make it happen.
When I see a history of voting in local elections, it tells me that the person knows a bit of the history of how our city government has worked during that time. Before they voted, they probably read articles, talked to candidates, attended forums or at least read campaign mailers.
Like I have done in years past, I pulled the voter file and looked up all of our candidates who are running for Lewisville City Council this year to see what their record was.
I pulled the last five years of election data. During that time, there were 13 elections and some runoff elections. These included November general elections, November constitutional elections, partisan primary elections and runoffs, and May municipal elections and runoffs.
For each candidate, we looked at whether she or he participated in each election or not. We only counted primaries and primary runoffs once since Republicans and Democrats have different races there.
My chart highlights the elections that had local issues on the ballot.
A limitation of this is that for those who have just moved into the county, we won’t have much voter history for them. For all we know, they could have voted religiously when they lived elsewhere. We’ve shown the opportunities they had while living in Lewisville.
Texas in general has a problem with voter participation across the board. We are a mostly non-voting state. Of those who do vote, many only vote in presidential election years when it’s nearly impossible to escape the hype. Most Texans either don’t know or don’t care that there are at least two general election days each and every year: one in May and one in November.
The person who only votes in Presidential elections gives up an awful lot of their real power to vote in the one race where your vote literally counts the least due to the quirks of our electoral college system.
City elections, on the other hand, give the voter much more power. Last May less than 1,000 Lewisville residents voted in our city election. We have over 100,000 residents in our city. Every voter last year carried the weight of over 99 other residents. If you voted, there were 99 other people who either couldn’t vote, were not registered to vote, didn’t know there was an election or decided they were going to let others make the decision for them.
Voting is the easiest part of participating in a democracy. The more difficult part is being informed. When it comes to local issues, that’s what The Lewisville Texan Journal and other local news outlets are for. We always recommend that you read a variety of sources.
Another advantage of local elections is that the people you are voting for are approachable. Most have posted emails and phone numbers online. Call them up and chat. This is the level where you have the opportunity. And it’s not just during the campaign. Most of our local elected officials are on Facebook and answer emails.
None of this column is intended to say there isn’t hope for someone who is new to voting or new to our city or local elections.
It’s comparable to the old saying about the two best times to plant a tree: 20 years ago and right now. The best time to have started voting was as soon as you were eligible, which could have been years ago. The second best time is right now. The deadline to get registered, if you aren’t already, is Thursday, April 6.
The candidates we have running for office this year all seem like decent people to me. They’ve put their name on a ballot and offered to serve their community. So far, from what I’ve seen, none of them would be a disaster. Some would have a steep learning curve.
And if the past is any predictor of the future, we’ll see some of the candidates from this year who do not win in May come back in subsequent years to take on roles with city boards and commissions. We’ll see them put down a reliable local voting record, and we’ll see some of them again in city council races. They’ll be more prepared then and have a better shot.
Now that we’ve had this talk, you are going to be a voter this year, right? Good. As a voter, it’s up to you to take this information about our candidates, and put it together with the profiles we’ve written and the upcoming questions we’ll be having them answer about city issues. You already read The Lewisville Texan Journal, so you are going to be informed. Voting will be the easy part.