Municipal apathy: Are you involved enough in local political process?

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - 'Polls opened bright and early' seems almost too grandiose a preamble to describe what will undoubtedly be nonexistent droves of excited, engaged voters chomping at the bit to submit their municipal ballots in Huntsville Tuesday.

An uneducated electorate; low turnout; municipal apathy -- these, ladies and gentlemen, are not news.

Each election cycle we effort reports regarding voter turnout as if we will be surprised by the dismal numbers we will inevitably obtain.

But it's not the numbers that matter -- it's what they tell us.

For weeks, WHNT News 19 has been inviting and interviewing Huntsville Board of Education and city council candidates to provide them an additional platform to educate you, the voter.

Monday, ahead of elections, we even produced a report about how to find out what district you live in and which precinct you visit to cast your vote.

At the risk of seeming accusatory, I dare say if you don't know which district you live, the swathes of candidate signage dotting Huntsville's main arteries likely don't mean that much to you.

We spoke to Huntsville City Clerk Treasurer Chuck Hagood Monday to reluctantly ask his help in reiterating to viewers that residents of Districts 1 and 5 had no dog in the municipal fight this go-around.

Hagood politely explained only Districts 2, 3 & 4 would vote Tuesday.

Yes -- there are people even this late in the game who remained confused about who would vote -- and that's okay.

But the blankness never seems to become less sad. Candidates spend their lives acquiring the skills and experience that qualify them for respective elected offices in the first place; then spend months and thousands of contributed dollars campaigning -- all for constituents to remain listless about the whole process and ultimate determining factor -- the vote?

Those elected will be making decisions about your neighborhood, your quality of life and your children's education, after all.

"I would say that of you don't know where you go vote you find out before you leave home to go vote," Hagood said matter-of-factly on Monday.

We couldn't help but ask his opinion, despite his decidedly non-judgmental approach to our initial request, about voters who don't even have the wherewithal to discover of their own volition the district in which they reside.

"Well, I'd say that people are not informed basically because they're not reading the paper or not listening the news. But Districts 2, 3 and 4 are the districts that are running this time and if you didn't know about the election and you didn't know whether you were supposed to go to the polls or not, you should have known long before now. And in any case there's a number of  avenues that you can go and find out about where you vote or if you're even involved in it," Hagood scolds.

His point begs the question: is it really ever too late to start educating yourself  or to become engaged in the local political process?

The American in me and many others tends to insist, 'no.'

While there are several options requiring more commitment than simple online research including attending local meetings and forums, raising questions and championing causes -- we can make one promise to those who remain unengaged.

Whether anyone is listening or regardless of if the message makes any impact, WHNT News 19 will continue to take action to empower you to make an informed vote based on informed decisions about your local leaders.

1 Comment

  • Kaki

    Loved this report…good balance of election reporting and civic responsibility reminders. Just sorry that so many Americans need the reminder at all. Not only did I vote today, but I made a conscious decision to become a poll volunteer when I retire. (Poll volunteers are awesome examples of civic responsibility in action!) I appreciate this report and the reminder that we should stay informed and use our voice/vote when we have the opportunity.

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