Local elections often don’t inspire voters. In recent city general elections, turnout has been less than impressive. In 2013, just 12 percent of the city’s registered voters showed up to elect a mayor, five city councilors-at-large and five ward councilors (plus a smattering of ward elections positions). Two years earlier, 13.7 percent of city voters cast ballots.
We hope more voters will opt to have a say Tuesday, when much the same offices are at stake. As political divisions have ramped up in recent years, both statewide and nationally, the importance of voting has become clear. In many states, those in power have been working hard to deprive many Americans of this most-basic civil right.
But as we’ve noted before, the choices voters make locally have a far greater effect on their wallets and immediate quality of life. The president and Congress aren’t likely to change the zoning of the property next door to you. And while they might play around with your federal income tax, their actions have a muted effect, at most, on the property taxes that hamstring so many Granite Staters.
This year, the mayoral race is more hotly contested than in many years, with two well-qualified, sitting city councilors facing off. Despite the at-times rancorous campaigning, both candidates are capable of leading the city, to the extent the mayor does that. There are differences in their approaches, however, and voters ought to inform themselves — one resource is the candidate questionnaires available at SentinelSource.com; another is to watch the recent mayoral debate, also posted on our website.
There’s more to the election than the mayoral race, of course. Keene’s mayor is not the city’s chief executive, as in some cities. That role is collectively held by the 15-member City Council. And 11 of those seats are up for grabs Tuesday. That’s a lot of opportunity for voters to assert their wishes.
Tuesday’s ballot also features once again a citywide referendum that offers voters the chance to determine whether local bars can add a particularly addictive and destructive form of gambling — keno. Voters adamantly said no to allowing keno in the Elm City two years ago, but the state Lottery Commission asked that it be brought up again this year.
Notably, a spokesman for that agency made clear the strategy is to keep bringing it up until voters wear down and say yes. Keene voters ought not to do so. As we have observed in this space in the past, keno has the potential to be among the most destructive forms of gambling for those with addictive tendencies. It’s so easy to play over and over again in a single sitting that a participant could quickly lose track of how much they’re spending. New Hampshire’s keno laws also call for them to be placed specifically in locations where alcohol is served. As to the relationship between gambling and alcohol, we’ll simply note there’s a very good reason casinos hand out drinks for free to those who are placing bets.
Get out and vote.