Voter turnout for last Tuesday’s combined Council Bluffs City Council, Council Bluffs Community School District board election and a Lewis Central School District board election was a disappointing 12%.
Last Tuesday’s 12% turnout came in the wake of the October City Council primary election that saw only 6% of Council Bluffs’ 40,156 registered voters go to the polls.
While last Tuesday’s voter numbers increased to roughly 5,200, it was still far short of the 20% turnout that election officials had predicted. Like election officials, we had hoped a relatively contentious City Council election would have prodded far more than 20% of the city’s registered voters to take the few minutes necessary to voice their opinions on issues and candidates’ positions on those issues.
In City Council races in 2017, 2015 and 2013, voter turnout was 15%, 9% and 16% respectively, with 2013 and 2017 being election years in which voters were asked to select a mayor, a race that election officials said often attracts more voters. This year’s vote followed the earlier trends.
While results may have been different in other parts of the state, combining city and school board elections that were formerly held separately in September — the hope being that the combined elections would encourage more voters to make their choices known — did not, unfortunately, have the desired impact in Council Bluffs.
Some of the issues that will be debated and decided by City Council members and the members of the two local school boards in the coming months and years will have a crucial — and potentially costly — impact on the city’s future. While those decisions will be made by what amounts to a handful of individuals, the impact of those decisions will impact us all.
We wish a much larger percentage of the city’s voters would have carefully considered the issues and impacts that were at play last Tuesday and taken advantage of their opportunity to be an active participant.