A little competition please

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The modernization of the voting process has made elections a much quicker thing than they used to be.

Enter the booth, punch about a dozen buttons, get on with your day.

The process of actually waiting for the results is now also expedited. In the 2011 muncipal elections, the City of Greencastle races were actually tabulated and posted by 6:30 p.m., or 30 minutes after the polls closed.

For county elections, there's a little bit more waiting, but it's about physical distance, not tabulation. The trip to downtown Greencastle from Russellville or Barnard or Reelsville is as much of a factor as anything.

Come next Tuesday, though, the process should be especially truncated. Worried about who to vote for? Don't be. Only eight of Putnam County's 13 townships will have any contested races below the state level.

If you live in Cloverdale's Third Ward, you're the big winner, with four (Yes, four!) local races in which your vote will actually make a difference -- Cloverdale Township Trustee, Cloverdale Town Council at-large, Cloverdale Town Council Third Ward and Cloverdale School Board.

For many of us, though, Tuesday will be an exercise in having our voice heard on the state level and an exercise in futility on the local level.

Bipartisanship seems to have become a thing of the past in Putnam County, to the tune of no Democrat candidates seeking county office on Tuesday. That's right zero. None. Zilch. Nada. Squadoosh.

That means even less time in the voting booth. (Although we should all take seriously the elections we will be helping decide for Secretary of State, Auditor of State, Treasurer of State and U.S. Representative-District 4.)

It also means next to none of the anticipation of Election Night that political junkies thrive on. That anticipation was apparently all spent back in May when Denny Bridges, Tim Bookwalter, Heather Gilbert, Tracy Bridges, Scott Stockton, David Penturf, Nancy Dennis, Rick Woodall, David Fuhrman, Jill Bridgewater, Darrel Thomas and Keith Berry effectively sealed their election bids.

Let this column serve to congratulate each of these candidates and declare each one a winner, six full days before the election.

It's a sad state of affairs in a nation whose political system has thrived for two-and-a-half centuries on the strength of a two-party system.

If you look at voter returns in the general elections, the last Democrat to win a county office was the 1994 election, when Democrat Nancy Michael edged Republican Tom Graffis by 29 votes for the Putnam County Council District 2 seat.

That's far too long, Putnam County.

In talking to the people of this county, most will tell you that at the local level in particular, they vote for the person, not the label next to the name. That is as it should be. In a small community, we get the chance to interact with these people. We see them at football games, at church, at Kroger. If we go to their meetings, we get the chance to look them right in the eyes and tell them our thoughts.

Unfortunately, the election results don't bear it out. Whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not, this county seems to take as much stock in its candidates' party affiliation as it does things like their character, experience and qualifications.

And none of this is to say anything negative about our Republican leaders, most of whom are doing a fine job. But there are also Democrats who could serve us well.

Democrat or Republican -- or Whiggamore or Bull Moose for that matter -- shouldn't matter at the county level.

The challenge we are left with is what to do going forward. For independents and Republicans, it means being more engaged and taking a long look at the choices you have. (At least when we again have choices.) Worry about who the candidate is, not what the candidate is.

For Democrats, the challenge is bigger. It's about overcoming apathy, as tough as that may be. It may have been a disappointing two decades for county Democrats, but the disappointment can only continue with no one on the ballot.