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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Low voter turnout: troublesome

South Ward Councilman Jim Coston reported in his blog this week that the final voting numbers from the election painted a bleak picture of democracy in the capital of New Jersey.

Out of roughly 30,000 voters, only about 7500 actually took 15 minutes out of their day to walk down to a polling place and cast a vote, in an election that probably will have more effect on life here than the more flashy, national elections.

State senators and assemblyman may not get the headlines like U.S. representatives, senators, and presidents, but they make a lot of the decisions that affect Trentonians on an everyday basis.

Many of these incumbents have been in office for a considerable amount of time and have not created solutions to New Jersey's budget woes, the high cost of living, and property taxes.

All those things hit the people of Trenton the hardest, and those people were probably too busy dealing with social and economic problems to show up at the polls.

On the other hand, there is one positive consequence of last week's voter apathy.

Because petition signature numbers for citizen initiatives and protests of city ordinances are based on the number of voters casting ballots in the last general election, residents who want to challenge the city government can now do so more easily.

Protests require 15 percent, in this case 1125 signatures, and initiatives 10 percent, or 750 signatures. But that is truly the only positive.

As Mr. Coston said, democracy seems to be shrinking in Trenton. And we're all poorer for it.

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