By: Tom Duggan – 9.22.15
Sad, pathetic, and disappointing, all words used by candidates and their supporters in Lawrence Tuesday as the city held it’s preliminary elections for city council and school committee.
With mild, summer-like weather, most polling places had more candidates holding signs outside, than voters in polling booths.
Lawrence has nearly 90,000 residents (including illegal aliens) only 37,998 people are registered to vote (approx. 40%) . On Tuesday only 3,539 people bothered to participate in the city election, which is 9.3% of registered voters and 4% of Lawrence residents.
Apathy in Lawrence was so bad Tuesday, that four of the six open seats on the Lawrence School Committee had no candidates at all. In the two districts that did have candidates, no candidates were eliminated in the preliminary election. School Committeeman Myra Ortiz said she believes low voter interest in the school committee races is because the Lawrence School System is currently under state receivership where the committee acts in an advisory role and has absolutely no authority to make decisions.
At-large city council candidate Jim Blatchford pointed out some of the factors in the low turnout.
“We’ve changed five polling locations in some major areas that I know of; on Prospect Hill, The Leahey School, the South Lawrence East School.”
Blatchford also pointed out that the city clerk put notices in the daily English-only newspaper in a city where more than 80% of the residents speak Spanish as their primary language.”
“My issue with that is, we have the registered voters addresses, so these are the people who show up to vote. We know who they are. We know who’s registered to vote. Why don’t we send a mailer that says ‘hey, by the way, you’re polling location has changed. Maybe we would have gotten the people who didn’t know the election was today.”
Blatchford also blamed the city council. “If we have a city council that was taking care of the little things, maybe the mayor could do some of these initiatives and not have to worry about being recalled every two years. There’s a simple solution to a not complex problem. The reason we’re not doing it is because we have a city council that is choosing to put it own efforts first. They don’t care about the civic process sometimes. That’s the biggest problem in Lawrence,when you have more people voting in Lawrence, Lawrence is better”
But, District E council candidate Dave Abdoo took a different approach, saying it’s really the responsibility of the people of Lawrence.
“First and foremost, it’s the citizenry’s responsibility to know these things. Every September and November; whether it is local, state, or otherwise, we have an election. Nonetheless, the city should do its best to make sure it is on every website, get it out on social media, get it out to every public place. Definitely in the City of Lawrence we need to have more participation in government. I don’t think it’s because people don’t care, there’s no mayor on the ballot, no governor, there are no big headline candidates. So, we have a city Council race and really it’s up to the candidates to generate excitement for our respective campaigns. Maybe we need to be doing a better job of that.
Abdoo says he remembers not long ago that the city put up blinking road signs reminding people when Election Day was a week before each election.
At-large city council candidate Rich Russle said the media bears some responsiblity. “We need to publicize the fact that there’s an election, but this was very poorly publicized by everybody. You and The Valley Patriot did publicize it, but several other media publications gave no publicity, made no commitments, made no endorsements at all. They just let it go. They’re dwelling on other issues that surround the election.”
ELECTION RESULTS (not yet posted)