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Poor voter turnout marks city elections

Another city election highlighted yet another poor showing from Fallon’s voters last week.

Rachel Dahl and James Richardson each won re-election in contested races despite a low turnout for Wards 1 and 2.

Dahl defeated challenger Sue Smith-Savala in a rematch of their 2009 election. As with the election four years ago, fewer than 12 percent of the 1,346 eligible voters in Ward 1 cast ballots. Likewise, Richardson defeated challenger Eric Blakey by a 94-79 margin or 13.4 percent of the vote in Ward 3, which has 1,290 eligible voters.

The scenario replayed itself considering only 400 voters went to the polls four years ago.

This year’s turnout was discouraging, to say the least, considering that each challenger mounted an aggressive campaign against the incumbent. Smith-Savala, for example, sent out campaign letters to each household and also walked door-to-door, while Blakey strategically placed billboard-size signs around town.

We can only speculate as to the low turnout:

Are voters satisfied with the current City Council and felt that no change was needed? Did many residents in the two wards feel their vote would not make a difference?

Are voters more apathetic during odd-year elections?

Are voters more interested in the Churchill County School Board and County Commission than they are in the working of the Fallon City Council?

First, we have heard little complaining about the City Council. When something needs to be done, residents have told us the city of Fallon responds.

Furthermore, the two races were close considering the low turnout, and with a larger turnout, the final tally for each race could have been different. In odd-year elections, the turnout in Fallon has been low. Two years ago, for example, not one opponent ran against incumbent Councilman Bob Erickson or Mayor Ken Tedford Jr. Several readers told us that they were apathetic and did not bother to vote a week ago.

Finally, during the past five to six years, residents have expressed more interest in following the actions of the county commissioners and especially the school board and feel the Fallon City Council conducts its business efficiently.

More than two years ago, the Legislature dangled a bill to move city council elections to even years and place the candidates on the ballot along with county and state offices. When more than 70 percent of the eligible county and city voters go the polls in even years, we have seen a more involved electorate. We don’t buy the argument that the city races would be lost somewhere in the ballot or people would not complete the voting process.

The idea of looking at even-year city elections is worth the time to attract more voters to the polls.

Editorials written by the LVN Editorial Board appear on Wednesdays.