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John Quigley: Time for voters to exercise rights

With the April 9 consolidated elections in sight, it’s time once again for citizens across DuPage County to exercise one of their greatest rights as Americans by casting votes for their candidates of choice at the municipal, township, public school, park and library levels of local government.

Let’s hope that the apathy and low turnout typical of the voting public after a presidential election doesn’t occur.

In the 2009 consolidated elections, less than 43 percent of Elmhurst’s 28,455 registered voters, or 12,055, cast a ballot — despite the incentive of a four-candidate mayoral race to elect a successor to a retiring four-term incumbent whose contested 2005 election brought out some 10,500 voters. Elmhurst’s last mayor needed votes from just 16.4 percent of registered voters to get elected.

How does that bode for 2013’s three-candidate race to replace that one-term mayor?

That lack of participation in the process of electing a mayor or village president has a trickle-down effect on all municipal offices and other property tax-based governmental bodies.

In 2009, the turnout rate in four of Elmhurst’s six contested aldermanic races came in under 43 percent and trailed the percentage in the uncontested Ward 4, which led in registered voters (4,424) and the votes-to-registered-voters ratio (three in 10). Ward 5 had the highest turnout rate (51.83 percent) and most votes (2,151), while Ward 3 trailed all in registered voters (3,457), turnout rate (35.12 percent) and votes (1,214).

Worse yet, those aldermanic numbers are even lower in the non-mayoral election year.

In 2011, only 23 percent of Elmhurst’s 28,760 registered voters cast a ballot, with uncontested races in Wards 2 and 5 factoring in. Still, voter turnout in the five contested races totaled just 25 percent, and the winning Ward 4 ratio was at one in 10. Ward 1 led in turnout rate (27.9 percent) and Ward 6 led in votes (1,138).

So, if you are not content letting an engaged minority decide who will govern your municipality, public schools, parks and library, then get out and vote on April 9. Early voting at Elmhurst City Hall (and other locations) began March 25 and runs through April 6.

To quote Will Bailey from “The West Wing”: No matter who you vote for, make sure you vote!

John R. Quigley is president and CEO of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce & Industry

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