My latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot last Thursday. It is the second of a three-part series on why I think the move to November for local elections is a bad idea. (Part 1 is here.) In this article, I look at another important element of successful campaigns: people.
There’s no doubt that voters are the most important people in an election. But second to them are the campaign workers.
These are the people who walk neighborhoods with and on behalf of the candidate. They knock on doors and distribute literature. They make calls to voters. They help identify those who support the candidate and try to get them to the polls.
For local campaigns, with limited resources, they’re mostly volunteers. Of course, given the opportunity, many of these volunteers would rather work on a more prestigious, better-funded campaign. Moving elections to November gives them that chance, which will deprive local candidates of a critical component of getting out their message.
Fewer volunteers dedicated to the local candidates means more political ignorance. When you combine that with our increasing tendency to fake cultural literacy, it’s no wonder the turnout for local elections is so low. Moving those elections to November doesn’t make voters smarter or more literate; rather, it just increases the number of folks casting ballots based on something other than who is the best person for the job.
And it makes a holdover from the Byrd Machine even more powerful:
The organization’s base was its “courthouse clique,” the network of constitutional officers across the commonwealth. Of the five, the sheriffs continue to play a significant role in helping elect candidates, providing deputies to “volunteer” on campaigns.
In a May election, these volunteers may be just enough to tip the election. It is not a coincidence that Norfolk councilwoman-elect Mamie Johnson, who won by 39 votes, thanked the sheriff and his deputies at her victory party on election night.
Well-informed voters in every election should be the goal. One part of getting there is having people work on the campaigns.
My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot nor am I paid for my contributions to the paper.Follow @vpaige