What is it that keeps people from going to the polls on election day?

A number of area communities held elections this week and you'd think they were charging a fee to get into the polls or something. When I first heard that only 15 percent of Acushnet voters bothered to participate in the town-wide election, I was stunned. Then I learned that merely 10 percent of eligible voters participated in the Fairhaven and Dartmouth elections.

What's going on?

Dartmouth Town Hall TSM

When people do not participate in the electoral process, very important decisions are left to a handful of people and that is dangerous. Failure to engage in the process of electing leaders to make financial and other decisions on behalf of your community is an inexcusable abdication of your responsibility as a member of that community. It is also lazy as hell.

It's sad enough that too few people are inclined to serve their community these days, but when folks can't even spare 15 minutes out of their busy day to vote, it is tragic.

When the level of civic involvement decreases enough and there are simply not enough candidates to fill out a ballot, one option might be regionalizing local governments. I suppose another could be some sort of government annexation whereby town affairs are managed by the nearest municipal governing authority.

via Google Maps
Fairhaven Town Hall via Google Maps

Town governments and the town meeting format are still the truest forms of self-governance, but quorums are not always easy to achieve, as interest in serving as a town meeting member has waned in many communities.

All communities, but particularly our towns, need to do a better job in stressing civic responsibility. We seem to have taken our system of governing for granted and it could disappear for good if we are not careful. We may not like what we are left with.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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