My mom always said “If you don’t vote then you can’t complain.” I took that to heart. Our vote is our voice in who leads us. Sadly, in 2017, Leavenworth only saw 13.7% of voters voice their opinions.
The 2017 elections were for our local officials, the ones who determine our taxes, how our roads are maintained, the quality of schools, issues involving our public safety, law enforcement and more. Basically, they determine how our community will function and 86.3% of the voters chose not to weigh in on who makes these decisions.
To give you a better grasp of the importance of these officials, in recent years the city officials in Basehor looked at dissolving their police department. The city council in Tonganoxie looked at bringing a Tyson chicken plant to the community. And the city commissioners in Leavenworth made cigarettes illegal for those under 21.
That 13.7% is not the voting average in our community. When we had midterm elections in 2018, deciding our governor and other state races, our county had a 57% turnout. We had an even higher percentage for the presidential election. The irony is that these state and federal officials have less effect on our day-to-day lives than our local officials.
Our U.S. senators are just two of 100 and they represent more than two million people. Our U.S. representative is just one of 435 people and he represents 435,000 people.Our state senator represents roughly 60,000 people and he is one of 40 people. Our state representative is just one of 125 people and represents 19,000 people.
Our local officials are one of five to eight people (depending on the city) and represent only one town. This means when you vote in your local election, you are getting more bang for your buck. Not only does your vote carry more weight in deciding who gets elected, but these officials have more say in what happens because they are not one of many, but one of few.
Many of these officials also get their start in local politics. Former Rep. Debbie Deere and former State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald served on the school board. U.S. Sens. Bob Dole and Jerry Moran were county attorneys. Abraham Lincoln and George Washington were county surveyors. I hope this election you exercise your voice.
Todd Thompson is the Leavenworth county attorney.