Editorial: Voter apathy shows need to consolidate government

  • Early voting at the Des Plaines Public Library.

      Early voting at the Des Plaines Public Library. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 4/2/2017 8:35 PM

We arrive Tuesday at Election Day 2017, the less glorious kind of election day -- not the national one with its pomp and circumstance, but the afterthought, the one about municipalities, school, park and library boards, fire commissions, the township boards and the occasional referendum.

The campaigns for these offices have been waged since December, but we'd almost be afraid to ask people at random what they think of them because we'd likely bump into as many people who are unaware that an election's taking place this week as those who have some recognition of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

As Our Dwindling Democracy, our series that begins today, illustrates, the apathy toward local politics and local government isn't limited to the voter. We're seeing a decline in the number of candidates as well.

Yes, there are instances of heated races adorned with competitive fields of candidates, but fewer than in the recent past.

A Daily Herald analysis of Tuesday's elections in suburban Cook and three collar counties indicates that in seven out of every 10 races, there is no contest.

In other words, seven out of every 10 races is uncontested, decided weeks ago before anyone ever went to a polling place. Sometimes, this is the result of cynical challenges to nominating petitions, but most of the time, it's simply a result of hardly anybody running.

Worse still, in many of these uncontested races, there aren't even enough candidates to fill all the positions up for election.

What to make of all this? Well, there is plenty of speculation about the reasons. And in the days ahead, we'll do more than our share of bemoaning and hand-wringing in this space about it all.

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But for now, shouldn't we all agree that consolidation of local government is not only logical from the standpoint of efficiency and cost, but it's also essential as a safeguard of representative democracy?

If this phenomenal lack of candidates isn't an impetus for consolidation, we don't know what is.

Reality is, there are just too many local governments in Illinois for anybody to pay any attention to them. Too many for the news media to properly monitor, too many for the public to care about.

As we've pointed out in this space in the past, Illinois has more local governments than any other state in the union. By far!

We have 35 percent more local governments than Texas, which ranks second in the nation in the number of them. And that's not even an apples-to-apples comparison. Illinois is less than 22 percent the size of Texas geographically and less than 48 percent the population.

The health of the community is dependent on the care its inhabitants have for it. But people can't care about something that seems too overwhelming to affect.

Give people a chance to govern themselves. Give people a chance to focus. Give people reasonableness. Consolidate our governments.

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