Turnout Matters

By Beacon Staff

Like spring planting, new elections are here. A lot of people are simply fed up with political nonsense. Politicians aren’t often focused on practical or simple policies to better the everyday lives of people.

Gridlock is the politician’s tool to effectively protect those fortunate enough to currently benefit from status quo laws and policies. Ugliness in political campaigns assures that fewer people pay attention and more or better candidates stay off the ballot. Less voter focus on policy benefits select interests.

On recess during the session Sen. Jon Tester was planting lentils, peas and barley on his farm, while Sen. John Walsh was holding education roundtables meeting with local leaders at our great state colleges.

Walsh has been listening to students. Montana rightly froze tuition at four-year schools, but average students still graduate with nearly $30,000 of debt for public education. Walsh says his plan will save students thousands of dollars by capping loan interest rates at 4 percent forever.

In the June 3 primaries many college students will vote for Walsh’s pocketbook policies. Student loan debt is catastrophically high. But it’s likely that students will choose apathy and join other nonvoters who do not participate during midterm elections.

In the 2010 midterm elections, a wave of tea partiers rode the national low voter turnout wave to Helena and Washington, D.C. Progressive and moderate politicians were tossed out by the bucket load.

The subsequent Montana Legislature was pegged by the Democratic governor as bat crap crazy, and by a veteran Republican member as scaring hometown constituents and making legislators look like a bunch of baboons.

Clearly, Montanans did not want such extreme legislation, nor did the governor as he vetoed a historic amount of socially derisive and simply bad bills. Voters routinely pay the high cost for not voting with a subsequent rash of extreme legislation.

With low voter turnout, the U.S. Senate will fall into the political control of tea partiers like those serving in the House who shut down the government. The impending rush of corporate-written bills won’t help the middle class much. Voters nationwide may suddenly ask former Gov. Brian Schweitzer to loan his Montana-registered veto branding iron to the president.

That will make great political theater, but the Sen. Ted Cruz-style politics will push to transform Medicare into vouchers and substantially increase the age of retirement. Seniors, who vote more than students, aren’t likely to put up with much more political nonsense.

Locally the Flathead Valley Community College board of trustee election is next week. Early ballots have been mailed and polls are open May 6. Next Tuesday voters will choose the direction of the college as well as K-12 education.

By measurements like the nursing program, the early childhood learning program, or the new farming programs, FVCC is doing a good job and meeting the demand of local learners and businesses.

Up for reelection are incumbent trustees John Phelps and Tom Harding. Harding has been a trustee since 1990; Phelps seeks a third term and was both a student of the college and later taught classes.

Firmly interwoven in the Flathead Valley, the community college is growing to meet the needs of the area. The community college has provided many good alternatives in the recent years and offers affordable options to the staggering private cost of public education.

Voters would be smart to participate in the FVCC and K-12 elections. Low voter turnout routinely foretells next years’ extreme or ideological politics and policies.

FVCC is the local hub of higher learning in the valley. They do a great job. How the college or local K-12 schools move forward over the coming years has everything to do with how many voter turnout to elect our leaders next Tuesday, May 6.

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