Ignorance and Apathy - 09/22/14
A recent survey conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center revealed the depth of ignorance Americans have about their government. For example, only about a third of the respondents could name all three branches of the federal government. About the same percentage could not even name one. Really? Everybody knows the three branches are Huey, Dewey, and Louie!
A substantial number of people think that the Republicans control the Senate and the Democrats control the House of Representatives. Then we ask: Why don't more people vote? Maybe it's just as well they don't. (If it's any consolation, about the same number of respondents knew the correct answer.)
I wonder what the results of a similar survey would be about local government if we were to conduct one in Deerfield Beach. What we know already is that relatively few people vote in city elections — a lot of people aren't even registered — and fewer still participate in local civic affairs on any level. We don't know exactly why.
How many people know how many sit on the city commission or what they do? How many could name the mayor or their district commissioner? Burgess Who?
More importantly, how many care? Perhaps for many residents who could vote, as long as they have running water, the toilets flush, and they feel reasonably safe, then things are just okay with them. So why bother to vote? In a sense, it's a "rational" decision and not strictly speaking, ignorance, apathy, laziness, or lack of concern about the city.
"Voter apathy" has a certain bad connotation. Except in cases of close, close elections, low turnouts in city elections may be "too bad," but not necessarily "all bad," and probably don't affect the outcomes anyway.
If 85 percent of qualified voters don't know what's going on at City Hall, or don't care, don't know the candidates, or just don't want to vote because no one can make them, then we don't need their votes, as far as I'm concerned. More power to the people who are at least somewhat informed and make an effort.