Did you vote on Nov. 8? If not, you weren’t alone. According to Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters Lee Lundrigan’s office, there were 35,876 ballots counted for the unofficial results released on Nov. 9. There are 15,000 or so vote-by-mail ballots that still have to be counted before the official results are released on or before Nov. 21. In a county of 514,453 people, only 227,278 are registered voters, and only around 60,000 people actually voted in this election.
Most of our local communities, in both Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, ran into the same problem on Election Day; people don’t vote unless there is an issue on the ballot that really matters to them personally. If I could have voted in Oakdale I absolutely would have, because in my opinion Measure O (sales tax) was a big deal ballot item. Whether I would have voted for or against it is irrelevant, because what matters is that it directly affects the community one way or another. You either raise taxes or have to pay out of pocket, or you try to support your city on an anemic budget. That is the sort of issue that people really should vote on. Unfortunately, only around 3,000 people in Oakdale voted one way or the other on Measure O.
This issue of low voter turnout is a known problem with our democratic system. Most Americans don’t vote in primaries or even general elections unless they include presidential candidates. Most of the issues that affect our day to day lives are decided at a more local level with irrigation districts, city council, and school boards. But we don’t vote on those issues. My question is, why hold so many elections if nobody votes? Why not just have someone else make that decision for us?
I hear a common reason that nobody voted in this election was that they don’t care who serves on the school board. That’s fine, if the voting public doesn’t want to make the decision we can appoint a board instead. And without any sort of public oversight the board can do whatever they want. They could save us plenty of tax dollars by just cutting a few days of school, not building new buildings, or funding new textbooks. That would be fine with me, I don’t even have kids. And so what if the next generation turns out so sub-par that nobody has the ability to run the country? We’ll be dead by then anyway.
I am registered to vote in Turlock, where the ballot issues were school board and Turlock Irrigation District elections. Nobody voted because they didn’t care who serves on local irrigation districts. I’m sure the farmers won’t mind if we just do away with irrigation all together. No more worrying about saving water for Southern California, no more scheduling when they can water crops, no more paying for a resource as natural and abundant as water. They can have completely unregulated access to all the water they can carry home in buckets or in the back of mule-drawn carts. Because without irrigation districts there is no one to facilitate irrigation.
Lastly, why vote for sales tax measures? Why even have sales tax? My fast food restaurant burrito would cost a lot less if production, sales, and everything else weren’t taxed. We could just stop collecting money from citizens for the Oakdale General Fund. Or Escalon or Riverbank. We could stop worrying about things like building regulations, police enforcement and city infrastructure. We could save a ton of money by living in a complete anarchy.
Okay, I think I’ve made my point. Will our civilization fall apart if a few people don’t vote? Probably not. But we have the opportunity to say exactly how our community is run. Why not exercise that right?
Andrea Goodwin is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.