How To Research Small Town Elections

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On Tuesday, I voted in the local municipal elections. It took about five minutes because I had done my research before hand. However, at approximately 5:30, I was voter number 70 at my precinct. I have no knowledge how many voters are in my precinct, but I would imagine, that’s about 10%. Of a town of over 50,000, you needed about 1,200 votes to be elected to the Park District Board. Let’s just say, not many people voted.

The excuse I hear the most often (including from my parents, who didn’t vote) is that a person does not have any knowledge of whom to vote for. Unfortunately, in the digital age, this is a bad reason. These municipal elections are more important than national elections when it comes to your taxes and your community. Many of us will visit Washington, DC, but we all live in our towns. And as the federal and state governments fail to raise enough revenue to pay for education, that will lead to levies at a local level. That means the five people on a school board, or a park district board, will be in control of your property taxes. No one likes property tax increases.

You may ask, well Dan, how can I find out information on these candidates who don’t run commercials and may not have webpages? And even worse, they aren’t generally party affiliated. Well, you’re in luck. Here are some tips that I use and I recommend you think about using them the next time your mayor is up for election:

1. Go to your local election clerk’s webpage. They may provide you with a sample ballot. For example, I was able to put in my address to verify my voting registration was active. Another option was a sample ballot. This provided me with all of the candidate names. With that I could run Google searches to find out anything I could about them. It also showed me what races had more candidates than open positions. You may be surprised, but most of the municipal elections don’t have too many candidates. But take this information. You’d be surprised what you can find with a few minutes of searching.

2. Look in your local newspaper. Almost every town has some local newspaper. It may be for a variety of local communities, but look online or find a print copy of the local papers. In this area, I looked at the Daily Herald and the Mount Prospect Journal. Both provided information. The Herald provided the candidates with a questionnaire to fill out. By definition, if a candidate does not fill out a survey, no matter the source, I do not vote for them. If they cannot take the time to fill out a small survey, how could they have time to correctly represent me? The Mount Prospect Journal hosted a debate and ran a few articles about the local issues. Additionally, they may offer endorsements that could be helpful if you still aren’t sure.

3. Watch a local access channel debate. The Mount Prospect Journal and City Hall recorded a debate that was shown on Mount Prospect TV. I watched it online at the city’s webpage. It was informative to hear a little about what they are working on and what they want to do. It may not be contentious, but it was good to get a sense of what they stood for.

Overall, this may have taken me a couple of hours. It was at most the length of a movie. So, once a year, put down the remote and go vote. Perform your civic duty. This country asks very little from you, but unless you provide your voice to the Republic, you have no right to complain and in my opinion, no right to the benefits that this country provides you. Most of us were lucky to be born here instead of somewhere else. Don’t take that for granted.

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