Editorial by Jason Wert
“Who elected these idiots?”
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard friends and relatives make comments similar to the above four words.
Usually those phrases when used by relatives have a few more words that I can’t print in a family newspaper. The word mother is usually in there somewhere, and it’s not in a positive use.
I always had a response to those kinds of comments, but I rarely spoke it, because it was the last thing my friends and relatives would want to hear.
“You did,” I wanted to say. “When you didn’t vote.”
I didn’t say it because of the inevitable response of “I didn’t vote for them” before they opened up another can of kitchen table verbal assault on their invisible foe. They would completely miss the point of what I was trying to say to them: In not taking the time to cast a ballot, you leave the election to the people who do show up. You allow the leadership of the areas that often have the most direct impact on your life to less than 1 in 5 people. YOU decide who gets elected by not showing up to choose.
You leave the direction of your city’s tax policies to someone else.
You leave the direction of your city’s economic development to someone else.
You leave what is taught to your children and your community’s children to someone else.
Tomorrow, we’ll likely see future decisions on the stepping down of the city’s response to COVID-19, and future development of the Grant Avenue Parkway, the training given to our community’s teachers, and future leadership of the school district made by people elected by less than 20 percent of our community’s eligible voters.
Less than 1 in 5.
I’m not picking this number out of thin air, either:
- In 2019, 17.2% of eligible Greene County voters came to the polls.
- In 2018, 9.4%
- In 2017, 18.6%
- In 2016, 10.4%
- In 2015, 23.8% (this was the ballot where the SOGI ordinance was repealed, 51-49%)
- In 2014, 9.6%
- In 2013, 12.1%
In three of those years, basically 1 in 10 eligible voters decided who would be your city councilmembers and school board members. It took the placing of a controversial ordinance on the ballot by the city of Springfield to barely get the total percentage of voters over 20 percent.
This year’s municipal elections have gotten uglier than homemade soup from a bachelor who’s trying to cook for the first time. Texts sent from an anonymous source (or as my grandfather would call them, cowards) attacking school board and city council candidates. Attack fliers hung on the door of residents, again with their source hidden to avoid accountability. The irony of someone setting fire to a sign stating firefighters endorsed Craig Hosmer still makes me shake my head in disbelief.
There are some out there who know the value of local elections.
They know the direct impact the people chosen tomorrow will have on our city and county’s future.
They know the impact the people chosen tomorrow will have on southwest Missouri as a whole because like it or not, Springfield and Greene County tend to lead the way in our region.
My late, great hero Neil Peart once wrote in the song “Freewill”: If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. So whether you show up tomorrow and cast your ballot or go through the motions of every other day and go home with your vote uncast, you’ve still decided who your community’s leaders will be.
So six months from now when something happens and you rush to utter a phrase similar to “who elected these idiots” remember: you did.