Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

To few take too little time to have their say

I was sitting next to Rick Stenger last Monday at Rotary and we were sharing stories about how we are saving money bundling cable TV, phone lines and Internet access.

I had written about that last Sunday, and as a regular reader of these thoughts, Rick ranks right up there with Bill Crosier, Jim Wuerthele and Bud Boylan. In other words, they never miss.

Rick is a very bright guy. That is one of the reasons he became publisher of The News-Herald a few years ago. He is on top of things.

“Are you going to write next week about the miserable voter turnout in the election?” he asked.

“Have you been reading my mail, or possibly my mind?” I responded. “That is exactly what I intended.”

We went on to talk about widespread voter ignorance and apathy, typified by the attitude, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

We couldn’t understand why a huge portion of the electorate doesn’t take the trouble to vote, which in essence means they are leaving the decision making up to others. And we agreed it is a shameful state of affairs.

Here are the numbers: In Lake County, voter turnout on Nov. 5 was 30.56 percent. Horrible! In Geauga County it was 35.56 percent – a tiny bit better but still disgraceful!

I cannot understand it. With the voting machines we now use, voting is as easy as putting jelly on your morning toast.

I would NOT THINK of not voting. No way would I leave the decisions up to others without putting in my nickel’s worth.

To the people who think it is important to vote only in presidential elections, I say, “You’ve got it backwards. Your vote has much greater impact in local elections, where the win-lose margins are much smaller.”

My favorite example of a close election was the Eastlake mayor’s race of 1957. The incumbent, Jack Barrett, was challenged by Mable Johnson, another longtime city official. Both of them were very nice people.

There were six young men who lived in a cottage on Lake Erie that entire summer. I was one of them. We all had worthwhile careers, but we wanted to try something different. (It is of no consequence that in 90 days we had 89 parties. It just worked out that way.)

I knew Jack and Mable very well because, at that point in my career, I had covered dozens of Eastlake council meetings.

One day Jack was out campaigning and he knocked on our cottage door. We were right next to the police chief, Dick Taylor. He didn’t seem to mind our partying. But I digress.

I told Jack I couldn’t vote for him because I was a resident of Willoughby, and I would be voting there.
Jack just wanted to pass a little time. “Can you see Mable Johnson, in a rainstorm, standing in a ditch full of water wearing hip boots, which is something a mayor does from time to time?”

Mable won the election by ONE VOTE. I say again, she won by a single vote. You can look it up. She went on to be mayor for several terms before becoming county treasurer. Jack moved to Kirtland and became the city administrator.

Don’t ever tell me your vote doesn’t matter. I will differ with you.

I have never failed to vote in any election, general, primary or special, going back to 1952. A guy named Eisenhower was running against a guy named Truman that year.

I lived in Wickliffe at the time, and we voted at what was then the high school. It was the most crowded election I had ever seen. There were hundreds of people waiting to vote. They had chairs all around the perimeter of the gymnasium. Every time someone went to vote, everyone moved over one chair.

It took a long time. Nowadays there is not much waiting. I have figured out that the best time to vote is right after lunch. It is never crowded. So at  2 p.m. on Election Day the lady of the house and I went over to Immaculate Conception Church in Willoughby, walked in, signed up and voted. It was over so fast I could have left the car running.

By the way, I am tired of being moved around. For 45 years I voted at Browning School. Then we moved, and for a couple years we voted at Andrews Osborne Academy. Then they moved us to the basement of Willoughby City Hall. This year, for the first time, it was Immaculate Conception.

Where will it be next year? The Eagles hall?

As an election footnote, I got a kick out of the people who predicted doom and gloom for the Willoughby-Eastlake schools renewal and the Laketran issue.

I was certain both of them would be big winners. How did I know? Call it intuition. I have been around a few elections, and I know how the waters are running, so to speak.

All four issues on my ballot – those two plus a library issue and the human services issue – were huge winners, about 2-1, as I was sure they would be.

Too bad I didn’t check the odds in Las Vegas. I could have made a fortune.


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