Plus a quick social studies lesson about how our government is actually organized.
A coin toss is a reasonable way to determine who will receive first possession of the ball in overtime during a football game. It’s been the standard and accepted practice for years at every level of the sport. Now we’re learning that the outcome of elections can be determined in a similar manner. The outcome means someone wins and someone loses. But with our low voter turnout this season means we are all losing!
Here are some closer details about two just such elections:
Example #1: A coin toss just last Friday determined the outcome of the mayor’s race in Monroe, Union County, a city of roughly 35,000 people! The two candidates receiving the most votes were Robert Burns and Bob Yanacsek. Each knotted at 970 votes and both waived their right to a recount which means heads or tails determined which winner takes all. Burns won and will take office in December along with several other new members of the council. As is often the case with municipal elections, voter turnout was abysmal and under the equally abysmal 15% county-wide voting percentage. The irony here is that those who are elected to represent us on a local level have the most direct impact on our daily lives. A far greater impact than those elected at the regional, state, and even federal levels. But it is why we aren’t taking the opportunity to have a say in the direction of our communities that is most troubling. I guess it’s just easier to complain after the fact. Boo on you voters in Monroe.
Example #2: In the Town of Ranlo, located in Gaston County, a commission contest between Corey Creech and Ronnie Laws came down to a coin toss as well when both candidates received 133 votes. During canvassing, a process by which the Board of Elections determines all rules were followed and all valid ballots were counted, it was determined one voter had submitted a blank ballot. Laws ended up winning the contest when the coin landed showing tails. In Ranlo, there are 2,800 registered voters and only 347 cast ballots. 12% of voters effectively determined the outcome of the election for the other 88%. An ugly trend.
My fear? My real fear is that MOST ALL the people reading this blog did vote. So, you’re not the problem. (If you didn’t vote, no candy for you this holiday season!) And if you did all vote, what can we say about the election process in general that produces such apathy? See my suggested solutions at the end.
To further rub salt in the wound, there were also a couple of other close contests in our area. Danielle Moore defeated Eric Fransen by three votes (627 – 624) for a seat on the Pineville Town Council and in Cornelius, Incumbent Mayor Woody Washam beat challenger Denis Bilodeau by just five votes (2,774 – 2,779). Voter turnout for Mecklenburg County was just 15.54%. Everyone is giving away their power!
I’m really not sure what it will take to ultimately get the attention of the voters. Too few are determining the outcome of these races, which in the end have a real impact on the future direction of our region. And worse yet, good, elected officials are hamstrung when attempting to make good leadership decisions for the future and in-line with state law, because they’re afraid of the small mob of voices who still don’t get that “we the people” is not a license to become a mob, literally threatening their ability to govern.
Maybe it’s time for a little social studies lesson. Newsflash: We are a republic, not a democracy. Let that sink in as you read this fact from The Connecticut General Assembly, which offers us this accurate definition:
By definition a republic is a representative form of government that is ruled according to a charter, or constitution, and a democracy is a government that is ruled according to the will of the majority.
ConstitutingAmerica.org has this to say:
The original text of the United States Constitution never mentions the word democracy, and only mentions republic as a form of government once in Article IV, Section 4 (“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government…”). Interestingly, that clause refers to the states, and not the federal government itself. Throughout the text the founders refer to the United States as the “union” or as the “United States” but never a republic or a democracy. The Declaration of Independence does not use either term at all.
That said, the structure laid down in the Constitution contains the elements that Merriam Webster described, including a “chief of state,” and that power lies with a body of “elected officers and representatives” who vote on the laws that govern the nation. All these officials govern according to law.
Read that AGAIN folks. And AGAIN. And SHARE IT. Because we are out of touch with our own form of government here in America. Think about it this way. Every year, enough people move to our region to fill Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium which is where the Panthers play. People who are new, and excited, and bring new economic opportunities. And yet we don’t want to merge with our future. We don’t even want to consider WHO is planning and implementing the fast-changing ‘legal’ future for all of us.
In case you’re wondering, I have an opinion about ‘what happens next’ to people in a municipality that do NOT get out and vote. First, they continue to believe that running a city or town is relatively easy. That a staff and city or town manager really do all the heavy lifting. The elected officials are there to carry out the majority will of the people, (which we know is WRONG) and that elected officials are window dressing, performing ribbon cuttings or signing pre-prepared documents in the case of emergency, blandly waving in parades and giving speeches during holidays. And since so many of us watch televised commissioner or council meetings that involve silly arguments, intense drama, and worse, I understand why they think they should be disinterested. But the truth is MUCH more complicated.
Local governments, those which govern cities, villages, counties, and towns, are established, and regulated by state law. Their authority in relation to other units of local government and in relation to state government rests ultimately on state law.
Did you read that? They are governed by the state. They are not independently autonomous. Which means that elected officials need to have an understanding of the way government works. Not just sit around and determine whether or not to approve a property rezoning because they like brown brick, tulips in the front yard, or worse yet, who should get to enjoy property rights GUARANTEED BY THE STATE.
It seems our real epidemic is lack of knowledge. And worse yet, the arrogance to believe others will use their power for good and not evil. I’m not sure about you, but I’m not interested in maintaining the status quo any longer. Instead, we’re going to do three things that will go a long way to producing better outcomes.
Won’t you join us? Candidate filing for the 2024 election cycle begins Monday, December 4th at noon.
I will be watching.BACK TO LATEST NEWS