On Tuesday, only 253 residents in Ligonier voted out of 1,831 people who were eligible.
That 13.8 percent is technically better than the countywide turnout of 9.34 percent — which means Kendallville turnout was significantly lower — but it’s definitely not anything to celebrate.
On a strictly numbers basis, two fewer people voted this year than in 2015 and that was despite having a mayor’s race again and an additional four-way, pick-two race for city council seats this year.
We hope you like the candidates who were on the ballot because unless Democrats slate candidates this summer — if history is any indicator it’s unlikely that will happen — Ligonier won’t even have an election in the fall because all of the Republicans will be unopposed.
None of this is to take anything away from Mayor Patty Fisel, councilwoman Julie Bell and newcomer Bill Mills who won their contested races on Tuesday. Nor is it to cast any negative light on the unopposed clerk-treasurer and the other council members.
But if the people don’t actively take part in the democratic process, something is lost.
It wouldn’t surprise us if a lot of people in Ligonier don’t know the mayor’s name. I’m guessing very few could name all five city council members and there are many who probably can’t name a single one.
That’s sad because, as we’ve noted in stories before, these local elected officials are the ones who are making the decisions that are most likely to impact your day-to-day life.
They, along with the department heads and committee members they appoint, exercise extensive control over what happens in the city limits.
They decide how many police officers and firefighters work the streets and how much they get paid. They decide what rates you’re going to pay for your water and sewer bill. They pick which streets gets fixed and which don’t. They decide how much money is going to be devoted to the city parks, recreation center and local programs. They pass ordinances that say what you can or cannot build on property in the city.
And that list goes on.
About 60 percent of people come out every four years to vote for the president of the United States, but honestly, the person in the White House typically impacts Ligonier, your household and your pocketbook far, far less than your elected city officials.
And, in the end, the real losers are the residents. No, that’s not saying the elected officials are doing a bad job — we don’t think so by any means — but by not caring, by not voting, by not being involved, residents are only short-changing themselves of additional opportunities.
Engaging with candidates, getting to know them and expressing your ideas and needs to them is how a representative democracy is supposed to work.
By not doing that, your elected officials move forward with what they know and/or what the few people who are engaged and passionate want.
So what do the other 86.2 percent of voters in Ligonier want?
I guess we’ll never know, because they don’t show up to let anyone know.