What the Numbers Really Mean



October, 2005

Last month, the City of Lawrence held a preliminary municipal election for mayor, school committee and city council.

Less than 20% of the 32,000 registered voters bothered to participate. With more than 70,000 people living in the city of Lawrence that means less than 9% of the population bothered to partake in our democratic electoral process.

Though many candidates would like to blame their opponents or the current office holders for the conditions of the city, it is clear that those most responsible are the people who live and work in the city yet refuse to lift a finger to make it better.

By not voting, those who stayed home have abdicated their political power to a handful of people who are activists, candidates and campaign supporters. Those who did not vote have ensured that political insiders will continue a strangle hold on power making it that much harder for political outsiders to achieve elected office and make needed changes in our city government.

Low turnouts always favor the incumbents. Why? Because people who vote in a low turnout are your hardcore voter who is most likely responsible for those currently in office, having voted in many previous elections.

 A Low turnout also indicates that the voters are satisfied with the status quo or are so disillusioned with the process that they believe our problems are insurmountable… so, why vote?

 Sadly, many people in the community are reading the numbers incorrectly and are drawing conclusions that will set us on a path of destruction. Some officials and their campaign supporters are focusing too much on the 20% who voted rather than using their efforts to increase voter turnout for the November election.

 80% of the voting population did not bother to vote and has not yet been tapped into by any candidate for any office. Rather than focusing on why the 20% voted the way they did, efforts must be made to make people aware of how critical their voice is in our local elections.

 Not one candidate for office gave that 80% who stayed home an incentive to partake in the process of choosing who will lead the city over the next two and four years.

And while we must hold the voters themselves to blame for not doing their civic duty, the candidates and their supporters share some of the blame for using the same tired rhetoric about how much they all love public safety and how they are all doing it “for the children.” Let’s face facts, nobody is against public safety and no one would ever admit to not caring about the children.

We can cry about racist voters, disenfranchisement, voting irregularities, or conspiracies by those currently in office. But none of those tactics will encourage the 80% of the voters who stayed home to participate in November final election .

Sadly, it may be too late for some.