Wednesday, May 3, 2017

National passion does not translate to local action

Here are the results from yesterday's election:
Ypsilanti Schools Operating Millage
YES: 2,673 | 71.80 percent
NO: 1,050 | 28.20 percent
Voter turnout: 8.18 percent

Ann Arbor Public Schools Sinking Fund
YES: 9,566 | 70.47 percent
NO: 4,008 | 29.53 percent
Voter turnout: 10.14 percent

Since the November 2016 election, there has been a great deal of talk of in increased engagement in politics. Indeed, we have seen numerous rallies: the Women's March, the March for Science, and the People's Climate March. People have increased their political giving and are inundating Congress with phone calls. Will this increase in national political engagement translate to an increase in local political participation?


Well at least if yesterday's voter turnout is any indication. This was the first election for Ypsilanti Community Schools and Ann Arbor Public Schools voters since the November 2016 election. We can compare the turnout from yesterday's election to the turnout from previous May elections to see if there has been a bump in turnout. The most recent May elections were the May 3rd, 2016 WISD Special Education Millage, and the May 6th, 2014 AAATA Millage. These elections saw 12.13% and 12.72% turnout, respectively. Though perhaps this should be taken with a grain of salt as there's not complete overlap between the election districts. Still, the lower voter turnout we saw yesterday, compared to the most recent May elections suggest that there is a disconnect between the increase in political fervor at the national level and local political engagement.

I would like to give a shout out to my fellow Ward 2 residents in Ypsilanti, where the combined Ward 2, Precincts 1, 2, and 3 saw the highest turnout, 20.16%, in either election yesterday.

Gentle readers, did you vote yesterday? What do you think we can do to increase participation in local politics?

H/T: to CivCity's Mary Morgan, whose Facebook post this morning inspired this article.


  1. If this year's May election contained issues as controversial and/or talked-about as the 2014 and 2016 elections, the turnout would have been quite different. It feels like you're comparing apples to oranges by picking those years to compare to. I did the math (for just Ann Arbor City precincts) and this year's turnout was much higher than the May elections in years prior to 2014 (i.e. years for which I could locate precinct-level data).

    1. That's very interesting. I didn't look at years before 2014 mostly out of laziness. I'll have to take a deeper look. Thanks for pointing that out.

    2. I'm not saying your overall point isn't valid, Ben. Getting agitated about what happens nationally probably doesn't lead to being any more involved in what happens locally, especially with reference to mundane matters of funding. A better correlation probably exists with local *policy* issues ... which are indirectly affected by personnel votes (council, judges ...) --- I think you might see improved turnout for those kinds of elections.

      I suspect that the national political situation *is* making many people more cognizant of things that could be done at the state or local level, and that they are getting involved there. I know I am.