Strategies for Engaging Voters

The City Council and community activists have often called for increased voter participation in Rockville’s elections with little success.  Typical are the results from the November 2011 election, when 6,240 ballots were cast out of 36,840 registered voters in a city with 62,476 residents.  If I pull out my calculator, that’s a voter turnout rate of 17 percent or put another way, ten percent of the residents are making the decisions for Mayor and Council.  We may find that level of involvement low, but it’s much better than neighboring Gaithersburg, where the voter turnout rate is in the single digits.  Nevertheless, every two years there’s a call to increase voter participation but not much happens.

Last night, I joined a committee of the Rockville Community Coalition to explore ways to actually work on this issue.  We didn’t develop any strategies or start any campaigns, but we did identify that voters are motivated by issues, good candidates, and yes, money (the current Republican primaries are a great example).  We’ll explore all three to see how this fledgling group can tackle these topics and we hope to be ready in plenty of time for the next City Council election!

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2 responses

  1. Max,
    Until 10 years ago, Rockville has Teams running for Council which helped to get the vote out. However, the major reason for our low turnout is that the Community does not have the two non-partisan political parties that from the mid-1950’s organized and ran local campaigns. The two parties, Independents for Rockville (IFR) and the Alliance of Rockville’s Citizens (ARC) organized neighborhood election activities, held political conventions to attract the best candidates, conducted City voter registration, etc. As a result, every neighborhood was energized for the elections.

    I feel the the change to using County voter rolls was the biggest mistake the City made; it has lessoned the awareness and energy of our elections

    1. Carol Hannaford

      Max,

      While I think that Jim makes a good point, I had difficulty distinguishing between these two parties. To me, they were simply named organizations and I could not discern a “platform” for either. That said, I became much more involved when I sat on a commission, and when I sat on a task force (chaired by Jim), and when I became more involved in Twinbrook issues.

      I became an election judge in 2006 and since then have felt the need to be more aware of how I as an indivdual can affect what happens in the city. I have also prodded my neighbors to vote.

      For a number of years, the city asked whether voter participation was so low because of voter apathy or because residents were so satisfied that they saw no need to vote. I am glad to see that the city is willing to explore this issue further. Please continue to keep us informed.

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