It seems strange to be writing about voting and elections in the off-year of the election cycle. If it were an election year, politics would occupy much of our conversations, commercial time, and news content. State and federal elections are generally good for the broadcast industry, both in advertising revenue and news interest. Pundits would be predicting turnout, discussing various polling data points, and public sentiment. No worries…that time is just around the corner.
This past spring we all had the opportunity to vote in local elections. As responsible citizens I trust you took full advantage of your right to vote. But it is disappointing to hear that 26.6 percent turnout was considered “strong” for an April election. Those turnout numbers were enhanced by highly contested mayoral races in two of the three largest cities in Wisconsin as well as a race for an open seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. Without the State Supreme Court race or large city mayoral races the spring election would likely have seen turnout in the teens.
Citizens shouldn’t forget that in April we were electing school boards, village trustees, city council members, county supervisors, not to mention voting on numerous school and municipal referendums. In general, one’s quality of life is affected more by getting value for your local property tax dollar than who we elect to represent us in Washington or Madison.
As broadcasters, we cannot force our viewers or listeners to care more about local elections. We do, however, give them opportunities to pay attention to local issues and local elections. I know our Wisconsin talk and news radio stations highlight local issues and local elections by offering opportunities for interviews. Our broadcast TV news departments certainly cover many of the larger issues, opportunities, and candidates in forums or in interviews.
Based on resources and time, local broadcasters can only highlight a limited number of issues, elections, or candidates and from what I have seen and heard, we do a great job. We might all do well to extend coverage to our digital products like podcasts, digital forums, or OTT opportunities to give more local candidates the opportunity to be heard.
Thank you to those who care enough to run for local positions in town, village, city, and county government and on school boards. They are not doing it for the glamour or the money. They do it because they truly care about the quality of life in your community. They are the ones who get the calls when the roads are not plowed or the garbage is not picked up, and they don’t have a staff to take the calls and respond to constituents.