The four-vote margin in the special election held at the end of June in Derry is a timely reminder of the importance of each and every vote. While the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision last week that impacts the Voting Rights Act of 1965, giving nine mostly southern states the right to make changes in elections laws without advance federal approval, it reminds us nevertheless of the significance of our right to vote.
The Derry election was held after voters turned down a contract for School District paraprofessionals in the March election. Contract talks reopened and a slightly less expensive proposal was the result. That went to a poorly attended deliberative session and the June 25 special election.
And on that day, 708 ballots were cast, resulting in a 356-352 win for the paraprofessionals. Derry has 20,194 registered voters. That’s under a 4 percent turnout. The School District Moderator described the vote as a “pretty decent turnout” for a special election. While that’s an incredibly sad comment, it’s not inaccurate – Derry, and just about every town in the area, continue to have slightly higher but equally embarrassing turnouts even in regular elections.
We’ve said before that local elections have the greatest impact on taxpayers and on their quality of life. That doesn’t seem to matter to voters.
Even though the Derry election did not impact the bottom line of the school budget, it asked a question for voters to answer – do you want to give a three-year contract and accompanying raise to the paraprofessionals. And the voters had a responsibility – and that is the correct word – to respond by casting their ballots.
But that seems to be a forgotten exercise. Why bother voting when someone else will do it for you. It’s hot, it’s raining, we’re tired, we’re overworked, we don’t understand the question, we forgot. We could probably come up with enough excuses to balance out the 708 voters who took their civic responsibility seriously.
Yet the election was decided by just four people. The next time you face an election, in whatever town you live, think about that number. Because there’s no question that your vote counts. People in our own country have died so that we have the right to vote. While the Supreme Court thinks things have improved since those days, voter registration won’t matter if, after we register, we don’t bother going to the polls.