AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
In North Attleboro, Voters Take the Rap for Government
This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on Monday, April 7, 2014
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
As I looked over the election
results in North Attleboro last week, a thought suddenly struck me.North Attleboro’s town government is a lot
like my little brother when I was growing up.
seems to ever be their fault.
the second year in a row voters virtually ignored the town election.Only 10.85 percent of registered voters
bothered to cast ballots, on the heels of last year’s turnout of less than 10
percent.For the second year in a row,
Election Commission Chairman Kevin Poirier correctly referred to the turnout as
there is little to indicate anything will change soon.North officials have shown little interest in
doing anything meaningful to attract more voters to local elections, other than
insisting they are not to blame for the turnouts.It’s almost like they really don’t want more
voters casting ballots – and that might very well be the truth.
to a person, town officials refuse to place any blame for the poor turnout on
the system of government.They reject
outright the argument voters simply don’t believe the current system is
effective, thus making their votes relatively meaningless.Instead they have a myriad of other excuses –
er, I mean reasons – to explain the continued poor showing.
election wasn’t advertised well enough.No one mentioned it on the town web site.The weather has been bad.People are too busy working.The media doesn’t cover it as well as it
should.Voters have trust in the current
system and don’t see the need to vote.It is not just North, turnout is down in many other communities.
the idea that voters have simply lost confidence and feel betrayed by a
government that consistently shuns them never seems to be touted by town officials.
many embarrassing turnouts does it take for that to be publicly
considered?What will it take for town
officials to finally admit that a system regularly ignored by 90 percent of
town voters needs to be changed?
April less than 10 percent turned out to vote for town officers.Two months later in June, 40 percent voted in
an override election.Why the difference?
Because in June, their vote actually mattered.
are 135 members in North Attleboro’s Representative Town Meeting.Last Tuesday’s election featured two
contested races for seven spots.All the
rest were either unopposed.In about 19
instances no one at all even bothered to run for the position.This system can’t even attract enough
candidates to fill its legislative branch, never mind attracting voters.
this is the form of government most officials are determined to keep at all
costs.Again, why?In my mind, the answer is simple.
is the government they can control.This
is the government picked by the small number of good citizens who take
seriously their obligation to vote.This
is the government that got them elected.
claims to the contrary, they don’t want more people to vote.It makes the electorate more
unpredictable.That just makes it harder
to get elected.
have to laugh when I hear people say RTM is better than a mayor or a town
council because it lets more people vote on local issues rather than
concentrating power in the hands of a few.
same RTM has consistently blocked people from casting binding ballot votes on
changing the form of government.Is more
only better when it applies to them?The
hypocrisy is laughable.
be elections in other local towns with very low turnouts.But most of them will have few if any
contested races.By contrast, the three
contests in North Attleboro were spirited and interesting.Yet voters still ignored them.
of the current system point to low turnout in other communities as a defense of
the status quo.It reminds me of when I
would point to bad behavior by others to explain my own, and my mom would say
“If they all jumped off a cliff, would you?”
are not lazy, don’t need to be “educated”, and are not ill-informed.They are just tired of being ignored and
blamed for the consistent failure of a system they have said should be changed.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
can be emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at