Uncontested races, low turnout plague local elections each November

Participation is down in local politics.

Historically, turnout has been a struggle in local elections. Local officials work each year to push the needle up, but turnout ranges between 30 and 45 percent of potential voters. Those figures improve slightly during presidential election cycles – like this year – but then individual factors can sometimes impact the turnout overall.

As it turns out though, getting people to cast a ballot isn’t the only challenge locally. Apparently getting candidates to run for those local, county, and regional seats is a challenge, too.

On Election Day FingerLakes1.com will host it’s annual Election Night Show, which will feature live results, analysis from local political experts, and conversations with winners as Josh Durso and Jim Sinicropi anchor the multi-hour feature on FingerLakes1.com, FingerLakes1.TV, FingerLakes1.com Radio, and FingerLakes1.com’s YouTube Channel.

Part of preparing for a show like this one involves pulling together and organizing all of the races taking place in our viewing area, which includes Cayuga, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins, Wayne, and Yates counties.

Here are some quick facts about those races:

  • There are 102 races taking place in those eight counties, including regional races for U.S. Senate, Congress, New York State Senate, New York State Assembly, and New York State Supreme Court.
  • There are a total of five propositions on the ballot in the region. All except for one are at the local level. Seneca County is the only one with a countywide proposition on the ballot.
  • 53 of those 102 races will be taking place with candidates running unopposed.
  • 6 of those 102 races feature no candidates at all.

How does this happen?

Well, it’s a mixed bag. All of the races featuring no verified candidates, which will be decided by write-in’s are in communities or districts with very low population. Many of those 53 races, which feature only one candidate – are similarly centered in primarily rural, less populated locations.

That doesn’t mean it’s an exclusive rule, though.

Candidates like Assemblyman Brian Kolb and New York State Senator Rich Funke will run in unopposed contests. These regional matchups cover larger regions, and oftentimes reflect the overall perceived effectiveness of an elected official.

What’s clear is that voter turnout isn’t the only problem that exists. Participation also is a problem in politics.

One major perceived problem in politics is the age of participation. While millennial participation is improving – it doesn’t mean that all of the problems have been fixed. There have been individual improvements in varying years as it pertains to turning out young voters – like President Barack Obama did in 2008.

But not enough data to show a concrete trend. There especially hasn’t been an improvement, particularly in local elections, showing younger people getting involved in politics – or seeking public office.

The data can be pooled together. People can make assumptions off of those data sets. However, if the end result is a lack of participation in polling booths, as well as the elections themselves – then a solution will not only be difficult to find – but also challenging to reach.

Reader Question: If one thing could be changed about the system to allow for greater turnout, more participation, and a better electoral system – what would YOU change? Tell us below in the comments or let us know on Facebook or Twitter @FingerLakes1

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