Election results bring joy, disappointment

Published 9:24 am Thursday, November 5, 2015

Tuesday’s election results sparked the full range of emotions in southwest Michigan, but the overall sentiment citizens take away from it should be disappointment when it comes to the entire democratic system.

Although not every community had elections, two — Dowagiac and Edwardsburg — had very important questions to answer when it came to the future of their communities.

The two Dowagiac school bonds passed by slim margins of 1,397 to 1,280 for the first and 1,365 to 1,315 for the second. The Ontwa Township public safety bond failed by the margin of 559 against and 375 in favor.

In both cases, it is disheartening to see less than 25 percent voter turnout out for such important issues.

The leadership at the Dowagiac schools must now develop a plan to use this money as responsibly as possible with the understanding that a significant percentage of the population either didn’t support the effort or didn’t even care enough to vote. Even though the bonds passed it is still vitally important that the district shows citizens — those for and against — what they will get for their investment.

Edwardsburg and Ontwa Township public safety officials must take these election results and go back to the drawing board with the realization that citizens have spoken. Village officials must either ask a different question or find out what would get more people to answer in the affirmative.

But elections will continue to be a hot topic locally and nationally for months.

The frenzy has only just begun as we move toward the 2016 presidential race and the spring primaries. Many people are likely already feeling election fatigue as they have been bombarded by media coverage of the circus of candidates from both parties.

It is only going to get worse.

Still, every citizen has to exercise his or her right to vote and be an active part of the process. Democracy only works if you have one thing: an informed and engaged public.

The newspaper can certainly help with the former but can only do so much when it comes to the latter. Citizens have to stand up and say, “Enough is enough. This is the direction our country should go and I am doing my part by casting a vote.”

As a nation, we have to start truly thinking about what can be done to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of voter participation.

It is time for a nonpartisan effort that starts with our youth and extends all the way to helping senior citizens cast their votes. What would this look like and who pays for it? I have no idea, but we have to start thinking outside the box, so to speak.

Focusing on access, while still being cognizant of the potential for fraud, would also be a step in the right direction. And that may mean that our mechanism of casting votes has a drastically different look in the future.

Regardless, we have to start really focusing on the problem of voter apathy if we expect our government to truly be effective.

The argument that one vote cannot make a difference or that both major political major political parties are the same doesn’t add up. However, it does not take a math genius to see that sitting back and doing nothing ends totals zero results.


Michael Caldwell is the publisher of Leader Publications LLC. He can be reached at (269) 687-7700 or by email at mike.caldwell@leaderpub.com.