|Ryan Cool and Kelli Grim are qualified candidates as of March 3, 2016.|
The result of non-competitive races is voter apathy. When few residents make the initiative to vote or become informed about the candidates, civic engagement falls and leads to even fewer candidates interested in running for office since the odds are further against them. For many years, few candidates showed up to provide real competition. Only competition solves this issue.
In 2008, there was a 4% increase in voter turnout from the 2006 election, and six candidates were running for the three town council seats. The main draw was the town's lawsuit against Loudoun County involving Woodgrove.
In 2012, 867 Purcellville voters cast a ballot (17.58% of eligible voters) and in 2014, 1,381 voters voted, comprising 27.21% of the eligible voting population. In sharp contrast, in 2000 only 923 people voted but with the smaller population it was 47% of the town.
In the past twenty-five years, the rate of voting participation has dropped significantly. This lack of voting has exacerbated the lack of civic engagement which further leads to less candidate interest. It also brings us to leadership that is not accountable or representative.
When a candidate is uncontested, it is like you showing up to a job interview and because you were the only applicant you got the job by default. Hardly a hearty endorsement.
Without a challenger, Purcellville residents in 2012 likely didn't get a full overview of what these individuals believed was important to their community, what their views were for Purcellville's future, and how they intended to guide the town. An election is only a selective process if it is also an interview for those seeking public service.
The result of low voter turnout is an unrepresentative government. The timing of our elections in May is the result of thinking decades ago to get the national election politics out of local elections but the true result is a narrower segment of population voting and the election of a select few.
The people who are voted into office under these low voter circumstances and uncontested races are not only in the minority, they form an unrepresentative minority. In these low turnout elections, the local leadership is incentivized to cater to the interests of a small portion of the general public.
Many policy decisions in Purcellville over the past decade have been for the benefit of a few at the cost of the many. For many years, Purcellville had only one local newspaper reporting their particular viewpoint. Naturally, many argue about what each newspaper prints and the slant they each take. But like the increase in voting helps elect better candidates, the increase in reporting provides information.
The rise of the internet has led to people having more access to information at their fingertips than ever before. It gets harder and harder for politicians to hide from their record.
In 2016, with seven candidates vying for three council seats, and three candidates seeking the one interim council seat, our electorate has more choices. Go vote.
“Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”