Election passion, not participation
When November voting turnout statistics finally came in for Ward County, it was disappointing to see that the participation percentage was down from 2012, and considerably down since 2008.
Somewhat surprisingly, apparent voter passion didn’t translate into voter turnout numbers in Ward County – 52 percent, which was lower than the percentage statewide (61.3 percent). This came as a mild surprise because around Minot, people seemed engaged with the process this year. The ballot featured some hometown names and candidates spent a good amount of time talking to voters here. We had ballot questions that either will have significant impact on Minot and the state – or else were marketed as if they would have such impact. Obviously this was also a presidential election and clearly passions ran high about that, judging from diner discussions and the calls, letters and emails that came in to Minot Daily News.
Furthermore, signs pointed to brisk voter turnout when early voting visibly attracted crowds of people. At least one polling site had a notable line outside as the hour grew late. While the consolidation of polling sites a few years ago has made it more challenging to eye-ball turnout these days, there was still ample reason to have higher expectations.
To be fair, 52 percent isn’t a bad number compared to many counties in the U.S., and isn’t bad compared to national numbers, which are never encouraging. In fact, one could make the argument that Ward County residents are zealous compared to countless other counties. But everything is relative and it is hard to fathom less turnout this year than in the last two presidential election years.
Hopefully, this election result isn’t a sign of disengagement on the part of Ward County residents. Trying times benefit from everyone’s input on setting the course ahead. We certainly didn’t do poorly in voter turnout, but we can do better.