While not always the case, participating in Columbia Association politics is akin to playing soccer with a satchel full of anvils. Progress may be slow, it may hurt a bit, but grit will get you where you need to go…eventually. And even then, sometimes you score an own goal.
This past weekend’s village election outcomes were disappointing, but not entirely unexpected, at least in two out of the three contested CA races. Based on the resident votes (excluding the CA votes), Fontaine and Schwarz kept it close. Klein’s machine – more Rube Goldberg than Tammany Hall – managed a narrow 52% - 48% victory once the parcel votes are removed from the equation. No one will be calling him Landslide Alan anytime soon. Schwarz obtained 44% of the vote in Hickory Ridge, that is a respectable showing in any book. The Waller defeat was a bit of an upset, particularly in light of her record of community service in Town Center. Well Ms. Ketley, check your calendar because it is time to govern like it is 2014.
A good friend (and future Delegate) penned some thoughts on increasing voter turnout in these elections. The post can be found right here.
I thought I would offer up some suggestions of my own:
“Vote Columbia” community gatherings, held in the Village Centers in April, one week before Election Day. Candidate forums are great but they tend to occur on weekday evenings and they can be sparsely attended. Hosting Election Day community gatherings is fine, but I think such events – ideally - should launch a week of reflection and discussion of relevant CA and village issues. So I would have them occur on the Saturday before the traditional Election Day.
Why not host a family-friendly event in each village, with food and entertainment, where residents can visit with their neighbors and receive information about the candidates…prior to Election Day itself. Frankly, and this is very important, they should be able to vote at such events too, which leads me to:
Early/extended voting periods. Beyond the mail-in ballots, it would be helpful to have more than just one formal window of opportunity to cast one’s ballot in-person. Kings Contrivance allows residents to vote on Friday evening as well as Saturday. I recommend formally opening the polls at the aforementioned “Vote Columbia” event….and then either keeping them open for a full week, or at least for the kick-off event as well as Thursday and Friday in addition to Election Day Saturday. And advertise this expanded window. Yes, voters can walk-in with mail-in ballots, but how many are aware that this is an option? How many know where to go?
An incentive. While participation in the electoral process is its own reward, voting in village elections is slightly different than casting a ballot for a state or federal office. In Wilde Lake, and I assume other villages, we receive a slip of paper with a number on it that identifies our specific ballot. What if a drawing was held where the holder of that number received a discount on a CA program or service? Nothing too extravagant of course, but enough to encourage more residents to take more of an interest in village elections. I hear some villages hold raffles, so this suggestion is a variation on that theme…and it should be done in all of the Villages and Town Center.
Electronic voting options. This should absolutely be explored.
Design changes with the mail-in ballots. I think they can resemble junk mail. Perhaps another look should be taken at them…to consider how to make them more eye-catching, more likely to be opened and read, and acted upon by the recipients.
Anyway, this is a start. Although the ground is wet and I am sans cleats, I am just trying to kick this ball down the field a bit.
Stay tuned, as more will follow.