By: Kevin Dube, N.A. Republican Town Committee
On March 28th of this year North Andover held its annual town elections. There were contested races for both School Committee and Housing Authority.
Out of 22,110 registered voters only 2,225 took the time to vote. Only 10.1% of all registered voters came out that day. Over the last 3 years average turnout has been under 14%. Compare that with 57% turnout for the 2022 midterms and 82.5% for the 2020 Presidential election. This is not just a North Andover problem. Looking around the Merrimack valley you won’t find any town that averages anything close to even 20% in their town elections. Andover, which held their election the same day as North Andover, only had an 8% turnout in their town elections, even with several positions contested, including moderator.
Why is there such apathy in town elections? Why are people so much more likely to turn out for statewide or Presidential elections than they are for their local representation? Arguably, elected town representatives touch on our daily lives more so than any other elected office holders.
The select board appoints members to most of the boards and committees in town, as well as the town manager. The town moderator appoints the finance committee, that then develops and guides the town budget as well as the school building committee. These locally-elected individuals decide how your tax dollars are spent as well as promote the future nature of the town in which you live.
In my opinion, the most important board is the school committee. Not only does the school budget consume over half of your tax dollars, but the school committee yields tremendous power in how our children will be educated, and what values will be promoted. As the song says, the children are our future – what they learn in school directly shapes the citizens they will become, and how they will influence the future of our country.
When knocking on doors during my campaign for school committee there was a specific topic of discussion that came up quite often. Many of these voters did not have children in the school system, and they explicitly expressed that it was irrelevant who actually sat on the school committee. In fact, some felt that they didn’t deserve a say in how the schools taught the future generation of Americans. People also seem to underestimate the power the school committee has in terms of developing and setting district-wide policy.
While it is true the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) promulgates frameworks for our schools, cities and towns have latitude in implementing those frameworks when developing curriculum. Your vote for a strong school committee member may just be the most important vote you cast in local elections.
There are more registered Republicans in North Andover than people who voted in the last two town elections. This is the area where we can make the most impact. This year I ran an aggressive campaign. I highlighted all of the areas in which our schools are doing everything conservatives want to stop.
This aggressive stance was expected to drive turnout on both sides, but it did not. The apathy on the left is understandable – they are winning without much effort, and they expect to win. Conservatives need to stop expecting to lose. Over five thousand people in North Andover cast ballots for every Republican candidate in the 2022 mid-term elections.
If even half of those had shown up for the town election I would have won by a large margin, if all of them had shown up we would have had more votes cast than in any town election in at least ten years if not ever. This is how we turn the tide and return to winning. The left will remain apathetic, the turnout will continue to be low, and that’s how we will win.
To do this we need strong candidates and active people to support and promote them.
I can guarantee the Democrats already are planning for the next town elections, as well as the state representative and senate elections next year. We need to do so as well.
We need a great deal of involvement and enthusiasm in order to win. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, drop me an email and let me know you want to start winning. ◊