Living in Society

Political Engagement and the City Elections

Polling Place

Never mistake absence of political noise for lack of a campaign. In both Solon and West Branch, the number of write-in votes in yesterday’s city elections was substantial. West Branch write-ins may make a difference in the outcome of one city council seat.

In West Branch there were 105 write-in votes of 213 cast (49 percent) with Andrew Mundell getting 91 of those and 14 remaining unresolved on election night. That makes Mundell competitive with Jodee Stoolman who received 93. Nicholas Goodweiler received 163 votes for councilperson and is safely elected to one of the two open seats.

In Solon there were 94 write-in ballots for city councilor of 214 cast (44 percent). The Johnson County auditor has not identified the write-in candidate(s) and those votes won’t change the election outcome of Steve Duncan, Lynn Morris and Lauren Whitehead being safely re-elected. One suspects a sub rosa write-in campaign for Dale Snipes who lost to Whitehead in a May 30 special election. I asked the auditor’s office for the names of write-in candidates once they are tabulated.

In low turnout elections a write-in campaign can make a difference by activating voters. I decided to run for township trustee only after casting my ballot in the 2012 general election when only one candidate for two township trustee seats was listed. It took some work to activate my network to vote for me, but not that much for an easy win.

These elections highlight the importance of local political engagement.

On Nov. 2, Dallas County Republicans heard how important they are. Acting Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg and Republican Party of Iowa chair Jeff Kaufmann extolled local political activists saying their county effort was essential to implementing the Republican agenda.

“This is where so much energy is, and this is where the work that gets done to elect conservative candidates really happens,” Gregg said. “This is where the organization happens, this is where the get-out-the vote effort happens, this is where the door knocking happens, and it’s so critical and it’s so important.”

“Electorally, there’s only one way that we counter a Johnson County, and that is for a Dallas County to run up the total,” Kaufmann said. “That’s the numbers game, how that does that.”

Elections matter and there is no denying Lauren Whitehead confirmed her credibility with last night’s solid win. However, when 12.4 percent of registered voters show up for a city election it also indicates people are engaged. In the 2013 Solon city election only 63 voters (4.5 percent) cast a ballot. By tripling voter participation in an uncontested city election last night, Solon voters set the stage for further electoral wins.

It’s a year until the 2018 general election and last night’s results indicate we’re off to a good start.