Archive for Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lawrence legacy?

Voters of a century ago certainly put today’s Lawrence voters to shame.

April 9, 2009

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Here’s an interesting perspective on the voter turnout in Tuesday’s elections.

On April 7, 2009, a total of 9,374 voters cast ballots in the 49 Lawrence precincts for a turnout of just under 14 percent.

On April 7, 1909, the Lawrence Daily World reported that 3,681 ballots were cast in an election that produced a landslide victory for Sam Bishop over W.H. Carruth for the office of Lawrence mayor. On Feb. 21, 1909, the World had reported: “Registering one person a minute for more than eight hours yesterday, city clerk Frank Brooks closed the poll books at 10 o’clock last night with the largest voter registration Lawrence has ever known, more than 4,115 after a preliminary count.”

So let’s do the math. The number of ballots cast in 2009 was about two and a half times the number cast in 1909, but the population of Lawrence is about eight times larger now, about 88,000, compared with about 11,000 in 1909.

And votes cast by 3,681 of 4,115 registered voters (women could vote in municipal elections by then) would represent a turnout of about 89 percent, compared with 14 percent in 2009.

OK, so times change. Lawrence is a different city than it was in 1909. Still, the comparison should make local voters ashamed.

A number of factors — excuses? — have been cited for Tuesday’s low turnout. There were no hot-button issues to draw voters to the polls. Being able to apply a litmus test on a hot topic often helps voters differentiate between candidates. In 1909, Lawrence voters probably already knew about everyone on the ballot; in 2009, they may have to work at it a little harder.

It can be argued that last November’s presidential election swelled the local registration rolls and therefore made Tuesday’s turnout percentage even smaller, but what about 1909, when they were registering “one voter per minute” on the day the registration rolls closed?

The lack of a primary election may also have been a factor. State law eliminated local primaries when only a few candidates would be knocked out of the race, but cities can use their home rule powers to override the state law. Even if, as would have been the case this year, only a few candidates are eliminated, primary elections help voters get to know the candidates and issues and may create a horse-race atmosphere that gets people to pay more attention to the election. Increasing voter participation could be well worth the expense of a primary election, and Lawrence city commissioners should look into opting out of the state law.

Excuses aside, however, voting still is largely a matter of personal responsibility. Although important issues related to the economy, social services, job creation and other matters are facing the city — not to mention key decisions awaiting local school board members — less than 14 percent of Lawrence voters thought those issues were important enough to warrant a trip to the polls on Tuesday.

Maybe it’s impossible to shame people into voting, but, if not, this year’s dismal comparison to the dedication of Lawrence voters a century ago should do the job.

Comments

BigPrune 6 years ago

I've lived in Lawrence for over 40 years, and some things I've come to realize about the citizens of Lawrence is Lawrencians: 1. have a hard time paying attention 2. daydream a lot 3. not seem to listen 4. be easily distracted 5. forget things 6. be in constant motion 7. squirm or fidget 8. talk too much 9. act and speak without thinking 10. have trouble taking turns 11. interrupt others

All excuses aside, this is probably the reason for the low voter turnout.

Chris Ogle 6 years ago

Thanks Prune- All these years I just thought (or didn't) it was the teachers fault... Good to know, finally, that Lawrence is to blame.

BigPrune 6 years ago

You need to get out a map log. Gardner is near Olathe, not Highway 59.

My list was provided by the CDC -most of the symptoms of ADHD.

Practicality 6 years ago

BigPrune (Anonymous) says…

"You need to get out a map log. Gardner is near Olathe, not Highway 59.

My list was provided by the CDC -most of the symptoms of ADHD."

Lol, Prune, I was thinking that list described cronic Marijuana abuse symptoms as well, aside from the "be in constant motion" one!

BigPrune 6 years ago

Practicality, Lawrence wouldn't have the most fast food restaurants per capita if it wasn't for the marijuana use.

Add:
12. Gets the munchies.

log, the intermodal was decided years after the KDOT Highway 59 expansion was decided. I stand by the facts. The intermodal is closer to Olathe than Lawrence, Ottawa, Baldwin etc. The truckers would have to go southwest to hook into Highway 59. Why would the truckers backtrack when they will come up I-35 and connect to 435 to I-70?

But, the expansion of Highway 59 and lack of the South Lawrence Trafficway will increase the traffic on 23rd Street and Iowa Street significantly. Try an extra 20,000 on top of 30,000 vehicles per day on 23rd Street alone.

RoeDapple 6 years ago

I personally,

  1. have a hard time paying attention
  2. daydream a lot
  3. not seem to listen
  4. be easily distracted
  5. forget things
  6. be in constant motion
  7. squirm or fidget
  8. talk too much
  9. act and speak without thinking
  10. have trouble taking turns
  11. interrupt others

But I did vote

;-)

beatrice 6 years ago

Big Prune is over 40! Wow! Having read his posts and some of his blogs, I would have bet money that he was in the 10th grade at best.

... or maybe he still is.

Leslie Swearingen 6 years ago

I voted though I have no idea what I expect the commissioners or the school board to accomplish. I read all the info and the best I could. Just think, I am my age, and still trying to discover who I am. I am wavering between Aunt Bea and Marilyn Monroe. More like Aunt Bea in looks. As for the ugly truth of Lawrence politics, I didn't see anyone being turned away at the polls.

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