Monday, November 12, 2007

Catching up on correspondence...

There have been a few comments posted by folks lately, and I thought it was about time I got caught up...and I thought I might do it in a series of posts rather than one long rambling piece.

Dweeb had some questions regarding the Norwich Bulletin hosted debates we held last month. There were six in total, two in Norwich and one each in Canterbury, Plainfield, Colchester and Preston. As is typical in these kinds of things, the vast majority of those who attend are usually connected to one of the campaigns...but in a couple of cases this year, it seemed there was a fairly good representation of people who came out to listen to the candidates. I think that was especially true in Canterbury, Plainfield and Preston where there aren't usually debates held.

As I've stated before, I did expect to see some surprises in this year's municipal elections, but not as many as we did see. Consider this, in the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Government, there will be nine new faces taking seats around the table, and six (out of 12) new faces at the Northeastern Connecticut Council of Government meetings. I thought, based on the debates, there might be some changes coming...but in all honesty, I never thought it would so sweeping.

I also thought that those attending the debates came to "listen," that they were there because they wanted to hear the candidates talk about very specific issues. And, I'd like to think, that we were successful in achieving that level of dialogue, and not the usual soundbites and pat answers. I found that different this year than in past years.

Turnout was low again...and unfortunate circumstance...and i'm not really sure how you go about fixing that. I do agree....to a degree....with wtfdnucsailor that part of the problem is the unknown factor. Voters don't know a lot about many of the candidates, and the candidates are somewhat limited in how much they can do in reaching out to voters.

But...I think there are some real problems in the way we approach municipal elections that can be fixed, and maybe that might help in bringing more people out to the polls.

For example: I do believe that the lack of choice on the ballots is a major problem. I don't think town committees do enough to recruit potential candidates, and are all too satisfied with taking what seats they can get and not worrying about filling every slot that is available.

I think the cross-endorsement process is a real shame, and needs to be ended. It sends a strong statement that we - the town committees - have already decided who will serve in this position and you have no say on it.

I think candidates are also at fault. They know turnouts will be low, so they target thier campaigning to those voters who have traditionally come out to vote -- and make little or no effort in reaching out to other groups. They get their copy of the voters' list from previous elections, and focus only on those voters who have demonstrated in the past that they will vote.

I think candidates get lazy. Their quite content in having the support of those around them and sit back and wait for someone to host a forum or debate and consider that "enough" to get the word out as to who they are and what they're all about. There are times when it appears candidates would prefer no publicity than getting their name in the paper. (For example...right after the nomination process....we ever hardly hear from candidates or town committees, and there is no reason why we should chase them to find out who's on the slate...not at that point. That's free advertising for them...and they don't take advantage of it.)

And, at this level, I think the municipal campaigns are far too "party-oriented." There isn't a town committee chairman anywhere in Eastern Connecticut who knows that he is going to have trouble fielding a full slate for the municipal elections long before the nominating process begins. And they do nothing about it....nothing in the sense of reaching out beyond party lines to attract unaffiliated voters.

I have long believed that if the two major parties were to do something simple like open their primaries to unaffiliated voters, they might just attract more people to the polls - and who knows, maybe to the processs itself.

2 Comments:

Blogger dweeb said...

What about an attempt by those in elected office, regardless of structure (RTM, Selectmen, City Council) to allow unaffiliated voters a greater voice and role in their own towns.

From what I can figure out, the CT State Constitution has institutionalized a two party system for just about everything and in many areas, as a matter of course, if not actually charter, it's business as usual when the respective town committees vet nominees for various boards and committees.

In some form, everyone needs to have an 'old school tie' as open-neck unaffiliated sports shirts aren't allowed in the clubhouse.

I can feel the impact as a white middle-aged man, so I cannot even begin to imagine the effect it may have on any number of different and diverse members of our (and any) community.

5:44 PM  
Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

Ray - In Waterford, both the Republicans and the Democrats have run (endorsed) unaffiliated candidates on their tickets. In fact, we could not have filled the slates if we did not get some unaffiliated candidates. Of course, we ask that they support the program of the party candidates during the election. I wish it was easy to get folks to run for local office. In the last local election, it took five months to build the ticket. Despite that time, we still have to nominate a fill in while we still searched for the final candidate. Fortunately, we found that candidate (who won on the first attempt at an election) the the fill in gratefully resigned the slot. As my spouse tells me on many occasions, not everyone is as interested in politics as I am and that I have to remember that most voters don't tune in until the month before an election and make their choices until the week before the election (Something like going to a concert. Most tickets are sold the two days before the concert). I think you have a point about the parties targeting folks who have voted in previous elections. However, I have also felt the rejection when trying to interest a voter who only votes in the national elections to vote in the local election or to get a registered voter who has never voted to come to the polls. During the past campaign, one of our candidates encountered a person who was actually proud that they had never voted and were 'above all that dirty stuff.' I would love to engage new blood. I think the effort of the Dems on the college campuses in 2006 and continuing into 2008 is a great step in that direction. It will help in the national election but not necessarily in the local election.

11:29 AM  

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