This year, Mayor Sherman Lea Sr. is proposing an ordinance to move the mayoral and city council elections to November from May. He expressed several reasons, but the main reason is that historically voter turnout in May is very low. In fact, roughly only 10 percent of Roanoke’s registered voters vote in council races. November elections tend to draw increased voter participation.
Why is voter turnout so low in May? Is it because no cares about local politics? Is it that no one thinks of voting in elections except November? Is it the lack of awareness – citizens of Roanoke are not notified effectively about elections? On the other hand, is it that council elections are just not memorable?
I really do not have answers to these questions, but I do know this: historically turnout for November elections generate larger voter turnout whether it is a presidential or non-presidential year. Somehow, we know when November comes, even if you do not know all the issue close hand, it is voting season. A couple of weeks ago, I conducted a “scientific experiment” involving 25 random people, black and white, young and old. The question: when you think of voting, which month do you think of? All but one said November. The person who did not say November said July. I believe she was a little confused.
My point is this – everyone relates elections to November. Let’s clear up the confusion for our citizens and move all elections to November. Confusion drives mistrust and gives politicians and local government a bad rap. Moving elections to November would not only save taxpayer’s money, but would create more opportunities for citizens to exercise the right to vote. Let the populace have a say in our city politics, not the crowd of 10 percent. Do it now! We have five Democratic members of Roanoke City Council who can make this happen. Do your due diligence, have your hearings but at the end of the day, logic must come into play. November elections is a no-brainer! Now, if we can realign our voting precincts so voters do not have to travel 20-30 minutes to vote, that would be an excellent move in preventing voter suppression. However, that is a discussion for another day.