Commentary: Canton voters don’t make the grade

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Dear Editor:

Can you imagine a student explaining to his parents that the 2 percent test grade just received wasn’t all that bad because someone else in the class had only scored 1 percent? This is essentially the argument put forth by Canton Selectman Avril Elkort in defending Canton’s abysmal voter turnout and why local elections shouldn’t be moved from April to November. First at a meeting of her board and then at this year’s annual town meeting she stated that “Hanover is even worse.” Could it be true that some other Massachusetts town has lower voter turnout than us? Actually not. Over the last two years, Canton, most likely, has the unenviable record of the lowest voter turnout in the history of Massachusetts and maybe even the entire country. As embarrassing as Hanover’s voter turnout should be to their residents, they still vote at about three times our rate. I challenge anyone to find a community with a sorrier voting record than Canton, Massachusetts.

Voting statistics in local municipal elections across the U.S. are difficult to find. There aren’t centralized databases that allow easy comparison in local elections. So finding out how Canton compares to every other town in Massachusetts or the entire country requires contacting municipalities directly. It’s practically impossible to compare us with every other municipality, but it’s certainly doable to compare us to the other 20 “Canton” town and cities in the U.S. (See this week’s Canton Citizen to view a table comparing our Canton to the other 20 Cantons in the United States.)

There isn’t another “Canton” that comes remotely within our realm of shame. All other “Cantons” vote in huge numbers compared to our Canton. Just north of us is Canton, Maine. They hold annual town meeting at their fire station and get about the same attendance as our Canton but with only 500 registered voters. This would be the equivalent of 3,000 people showing up for our town meeting. I talked to their town clerk, Scotty Kilbreth, who expressed disappointment with “only” 42 percent turnout in the last local election.

Silly as Selectman Elkort’s statement was that “Hanover is worse than us,” there have been several seriously disturbing arguments against moving elections to November. We might get a bigger vote, but will it be more intelligent? So the 2 percent who voted in the last election all had advanced degrees and the 98 percent who didn’t vote were village idiots? Voters should be required to take a test before voting. Surely you’re joking? Voter turnout is low because people are satisfied with the way the town is being run. Wow, a 98 percent approval rate, even better than what North Korea claims.

Canton, Massachusetts has a problem. Democracy is being undermined by nearly zero voter turnouts. If we want to preserve this community, we need to increase voter participation soon. Moving elections to November is a modest first step. If you care about our Canton, please express your concerns to the Board of Selectmen and Representative Bill Galvin.

A Worried Canton Citizen,

Bruce Rohr

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avatar Posted by on Sep 18 2014. Filed under Featured Content, From One Citizen to Another, Opinion, Town Election. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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