Whenever there’s a U.S. presidential election people around these parts enthusiastically head to the polls to cast their votes for the nation’s chief executive and others vying for federal office.

In the 2020 presidential election, voter turnout in Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside was between 75% and 80%. So many voters turned out that there were even long lines during early voting – in the midst of a pandemic.

When it comes to voting for people whose decisions will directly impact communities and schools and libraries, however, people don’t seem to care so much.

Even when there’s a contested race for the leader of a municipality – the mayor or president – it’s remarkable to note how few people actually take the time to cast a ballot.

In 2017 and 2021, for example, where there were contested and contentious mayoral races in North Riverside, voter turnout didn’t make it to 40%. 

In 2019, the last time Brookfield had a contested election, voter turnout was 20.47%. In 2021, Brookfield’s first uncontested municipal election in decades, voter turnout was 9%. 

In Riverside, where there hasn’t been a contested election since 2009, voter turnout in municipal races is positively dismal. In 2021, it was 11.8%. 

Those low voter turnouts impact school board races even more. While those who do turnout for contested municipal elections certainly drive the vote, lack of contested elections elsewhere drive down overall voter turnout for school districts, whose boundaries often include a much wider area.

For example, in 2021 voter turnout was highest in North Riverside – the smallest voter base within Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 – at 36%. However, uncontested municipal elections in Riverside and Brookfield drove down voter turnout to the point that voter turnout for the RBHS school board election was 16%.

Lyons Township High School District 204, despite featuring contested races in most years, experiences very low voter turnout. For the past three elections in 2017, 2019 and 2021, the highest voter turnout has been 14.2%.

Do we really want less than 15% of voters deciding how government decisions will impact our lives and the lives of our children?

These races for municipal office, school boards and library boards are vital to how local decisions get made.

So, before heading to the polls check out our election guide online at RBLandmark.com and make it a point to do your civic duty this spring. Vote.