Wilmington needs our votes more than ever

Editorial via The News Journal

Political lobbyist Rhett Ruggerio says the seven Democrats vying to win the Wilmington mayoral election should approach the September primary as if they’re running in a town of 2,000 residents, not the more than 70,000 who live in our state’s largest city.

That’s because whoever wins the September Democratic primary could do so with fewer than 2,000 votes. And because there are not yet any Republicans vying for the office, the Democratic primary winner could very well carry that puny vote total straight to a comfortable chair behind the mayor’s desk.

That likelihood does not bring much of any hope to a city badly in need of a unified front against crime and for growth.

But don’t blame the politicians for “gaming the system.” And don’t decry “politics as usual.”

If people are winning elections despite getting votes from less than 5 percent of a community’s population, that is on all of us who are eligible voters.

It’s called “voter apathy,” but perhaps that’s too forgiving a phrase. How about “voter negligence?”

According to United States Census data, at the time of the November 2014 elections, there were some 240,000,000 people 18 and over in the United States. Of those, 59 percent said they were registered to vote.

To put it another way, 98,000,000 Americans who could register to vote, have not. That’s more than 10 times the population of New York City.

In Wilmington’s case, as reported in Jenna Pizzi’s story, of 71,525 residents, 50,329 are registered to vote, with 35,916 as Democrats and 5,946 Republican. In 2012’s Democratic primary, 31 percent, or 11,014 eligible voters, went to the polls. (There were no Republican mayoral candidates in 2012.)

That primary featured five candidates, including eventual winner Dennis P. Williams, who took home 4,244 votes, 1,108 more than the second-place finisher, Kevin Kelley.

That’s not a mandate. That’s not evidence that voters are solidly behind a candidate’s platform. That’s not leverage a leader needs to make change.

In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt routed incumbent Herbert Hoover to become president. At the time, the United States was three years removed from the stock market crash. The Great Depression was perhaps at its worst.

Voters gave FDR a mandate and he ran with it. According to William E. Leuchtenburg, after taking office in 1933, Roosevelt sent 15 legislative requests to Capitol Hill. Congress, recognizing the support FDR had garnered from the American people, passed all 15 – with many Republicans crossing party lines to support him.

Imagine the next mayor of Wilmington having that kind of momentum and support.

It is possible. All it takes is your vote.

For information on voting in Delaware, visit https://ivote.de.gov/.