At the beginning of budget season in Region 1, no one came to the meetings; no one spoke from the audience. Oh, teacher Mark Burdick was there to share the tedium with me. The Region 1 Board of Education and its administrators went over the trivia of financial data almost unobserved. And now no one is voting in the referenda. Oh, less than 12% of registered voters show up at the polls, but that is too few to even use the automated voting machines in many towns. In Kent, the moderator doesn’t even give out those wonderful “I Voted” stickers anymore. Why advertise a null vote?
The overall vote in the budget referendum in Region 1 reached a peak two ballots ago of 11.2% of registered voters in our six towns. That doesn’t include absent property owners who get to vote as well.
While the total number of voters appears to vary a lot, from 849 to 1204, that variation is dwarfed by the total number of voters in the region. The disinterest in this issue is appalling.
The voting by town tells slightly different story. Here the voting percentage varies from a high of 20.3% in Cornwall for referendum 4 to 4.8% in Kent for referendum 1. Indeed, both Cornwall and Falls Village (Canaan) show much higher voting percentages than the other towns.
Both Cornwall and Falls Village have very active town leaders striving to turn out the vote. Kent brings up the rear in all cases indicating the ambivalence of town leaders to their civic duty.
However, on an overall scale, these referenda are a picture of apathy. Compare these votes with both the municipal and presidential elections. The 2012 presidential election, which included state legislative races, ran around 80% voter turnouts. The 2011 municipal elections varied from 22% to 53% depending on local races; many region towns have no race for First Selectman.
By contrast, the sixth referendum in Region 1 varied from 8.2% to 18.7%. Obviously, most registered voters consider these budget issues to be unimportant.
One could argue all day over the reasons. Is it a lack of reporting or proper reporting? Is it a lack of concern over the cost of our high school? Is it a measure of the death of our newspapers? Is it because the voting date is not the first Tuesday of November?
In any event, the lack of voters is accentuated by the amplification of the rancid opinions of a few. By actual count, no more than a dozen residents have expressed concern over the region’s administrators at meetings, compared to 40-some board members who thought otherwise. Why do these angry dozen always get more attention from our newspapers?
The numbers indicate that those dozen people drive a group of 200-300 voters through media amplification. They control the outcome of the Region 1 budget. They have hurt the education of our kids by the loss of a good Principal at the high school. And we have now spent over $40,000 on their campaign of intimidation.
Will our voters ever wake up? Probably not.