This is an editorial, not a news piece, written by Ithaca Voice Managing Editor Jolene Almendarez.
ITHACA, N.Y. — Covering election night in November, most of The Ithaca Voice staff planted itself with the Tompkins County Democrats at Hotel Ithaca.
The energy was palpable — it was coming out of the floor and bouncing off the walls. The more people who filled the room, the more it felt like history was about to be made. Donald Trump has even said that he thought Hillary Clinton would win the election.
Personal politics aside, there’s no denying that a win for Clinton would finally break the tallest, most impenetrable ceiling. Our nation would have had our first woman president.
Then the numbers started rolling in and everyone seemed to crowded in front of one small television in the room as states started turning red. People passed around cell phones in the back of the banquet hall to read what friends were reading. People started doing math and counting electoral votes.
As a Trump victory started seeming more likely, people cried and held each other before quietly leaving.
But the next day was hopeful on two fronts.
Tompkins County Republicans were reinvigorated. Everyone I spoke to seemed to think it might be possible to at least rally the party in the county and maybe win a few more county seats. It was time for the local Republicans to wake up.
Democrats and progressives hit the ground running. They were going to run for every office in every election, from the local school board to Congress. They were going to make sure their friends and neighbors made it to the polls. They said people fell asleep at the wheel with the comfort or complacency of everyday life.
Both sides said it wouldn’t happen again.
Fast forward nine months to the Democratic primary election this week.
In the District 3 Tompkins County Legislator race, which had three candidates, 432 out of 1,721 registered Democrat voters cast a ballot. That’s 25.1 percent of eligible voters.
In the District 4 race, which officially had two candidates, 81 people out of 1,172 registered Democrats voted. That’s 6.9 percent.
Let’s not forget, also, that many seats are going uncontested, not only within parties but throughout the election. Local Republicans (I know you’re out there, even in Tompkins County) are not stepping up to the plate to run against Democrats.
Even in liberal strongholds like Ithaca, it’s important to make your issues heard because intelligent, civil discussion matters.
So many aspects of our lives — our safety, energy use, money, neighborhoods — are determined by the people we vote into local offices. Yet even after the last election, which was supposed to be a game changer for everyone, people still didn’t make it to the polls.
We have to do better.
So The Voice is putting this call out there: what can we do, as a news agency, to help you stay engaged?
For this election, we have done live streamed debates, announced candidacy bids, created an Election 2017 tag on our website, and published candidate interviews (more of which are coming).
What else can we do and what can we do better to let you know what’s going on?
Let us know in the comments or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured photo by Ed Dittenhoef.