Column: Voters should plan now to learn about candidates in April local elections – Chicago Tribune

https://ift.tt/DSgbnZt

Voters who did their civic duty by casting ballots in the recent midterms might be tempted to sit out the upcoming local elections in April.

That would be a mistake.

Local elections tend to have a big impact on family budgets. Voters choose representatives who govern local taxing districts that levy property taxes. Public schools and other taxing districts affect home values, monthly housing costs and other vital money matters.

Yet in many communities, fewer than 10% of registered voters participate in these off-year elections. In Illinois, local races are known as consolidated elections and they occur in the spring of odd-numbered years.

The brutal schedule means consolidated elections in some ways overlap with the presidential or gubernatorial elections that occur in November of even-numbered years.

Candidates for some local elections begin collecting signatures for nominating petitions from registered voters before people vote in November. This confuses voters, especially when media report on candidates in the Chicago mayoral election, for example, as polls are open for voters to decide the race for governor and other state offices.

Another frustrating aspect is the sheer number of candidates involved. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Cook County clerk’s office reported 470 candidates had filed paperwork to run in upcoming school board elections.

Voters may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of choosing from among a field of eight or 10 candidates who file for three open seats on a school board. People may be reluctant to vote unless they know something about the candidates. They would rather not vote at all than risk voting for the “wrong” person.

In school elections, for example, unions representing teachers and other workers sometimes endorse candidates. If elected, those candidates may serve the interests of public sector employees more than those of taxpayers.

Local elections are particularly problematic in Illinois because we have, by far, more units of government than any other state. Confusion over the overwhelming number of candidates is another good reason why Illinois ought to embrace consolidation as a way of reducing the amount of government.

American politics is dominated by a two-party system, and most voters seem to be OK with making a binary choice from among two candidates. TV commercials, yard signs, internet ads and other political messaging likely equip voters with enough information to decide how they will vote in binary elections. Crowded fields for multiple seats, however, pose a completely different dynamic.

Consolidated elections feature long ballots often filled with lists of candidates vying for seats on city councils, village boards, school boards, park district boards, library district boards, township boards, community college district boards, fire protection district boards and other taxing bodies.

It is no wonder citizens may feel overwhelmed. Who has time to educate themselves about every candidate in all these races? Expecting voters to make informed choices in local elections is asking a lot.

Yet local elections are critically important, and every eligible voter should do their best to learn something about people seeking to represent them in local government.

Homeowners and residents concerned about their property tax bills and monthly housing costs can help themselves by making a point to study the field of hopefuls seeking public office in the April 4 consolidated election.

The good news is voters need not drop what they’re doing this moment to compile exhaustive profiles of every candidate who files paperwork to run. The filing period began Monday, Dec. 12, and ends Monday, Dec. 19.

In every election, political rivals will challenge petitions of numerous candidates. Operatives will pore over pages of petitions, looking for minor technical violations that could disqualify a candidate.

Invariably, local electoral boards will cull the herd of hopefuls by tossing some petitions. County clerks face deadlines to finalize ballots several weeks before elections to accommodate early voting, vote by mail and other options.

The point is, people need not worry about setting aside time during the busy holiday season to research candidates. By early March, however, citizens who want to be engaged in their communities ought to plan on devoting time to learning about candidates and making informed choices in the April 4 elections.

The upcoming cycle of local school elections is particularly important due to increased activism by people with strong opinions about how and what children should be taught in schools.

Culture warriors nationwide are turning local school elections into battlegrounds over sex education in schools, critical race theory and accommodating students questioning their sexual identities.

Daily Southtown

Twice-weekly


News updates from the south suburbs delivered every Monday and Wednesday

A typically quiet election for seats on a library board could become a tempest over story times hosted by drag queens.

We have seen culture wars play out here in the south suburbs. The Oak Lawn High School District 229 Board this year removed member Rob Cruz after Cruz twice sued Gov. J.B. Pritzker over the governor’s mandate that people wear masks in schools during the pandemic.

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress, denounced the Downers Grove Public Library’s plans to hold a drag queen bingo event that was later canceled because of a threat of violence.

Because turnout in local elections is traditionally dismal, there is potential for extremists to muster enough supporters to hijack boards that govern libraries, schools and other public facilities.

Citizens should pay attention to the upcoming local elections. Unless voters remain vigilant, opportunists could sneak in and seize control of local units of government.

Ted Slowik is a columnist for the Daily Southtown.

tslowik@tribpub.com

Ino Saves New

via rk2’s favorite articles on Inoreader https://ift.tt/71FwRQ3

December 14, 2022 at 05:16PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s