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2019 Election Coverage

Every Election Is Important

Preliminary Election Is September 17

By William Legault


“This is an important election” How often do we hear that?

Over the last few local election cycles we have been hearing that a lot. It’s true. This is an important election. The last election was important. The election before that was important, as was the one before that.  “On and on ad infinitum” my Salem High School freshman general math teacher the unforgettable Mr. Murray would always say. Well it applies here. Voting is always important.

Unfortunately the numbers belie this.  When it comes to our local preliminary or primary elections, the Salem voters, for the most part couldn’t possibly care less.

Since 1994 Salem has had 12 election municipal elections that were strictly for Salem city government positions and included a city wide election. By city wide we mean mayor,  at-large city council, or school committee contests. This does not include any cycle that included national or state races. In those 11 elections the average voter turnout for the September preliminaries was 19.04%. The high was in 2005 when a three-way scrum for the Mayors office brought 44% of the vote, less than half of our registered voters to the ballot box.  The nadir was 8% in 2011, a year with preliminaries for the at-Large council seats and the school committee. The 2016 presidential primary, arguably the most contentious of our time only brought out 44% of registered Salem voters.

Our last municipal cycle was two years ago in 2017 and it featured both a a mayoral race, and a ballot measure that got a lot of blood boiling one way or the other throughout the city. The only preliminary elections though, were the at-large and Ward 2 races. Despite all of the passions raised by a legitimate mayoral challenge and the “sanctuary” city issue only 13% of our voters turned out in September.

We have more than 26,000 registered voters in Salem. The majority are registered as unenrolled, or in the more common parlance independent. The vast majority of them seem to have no interest in voting in preliminary elections. Does that lack of interest indicate perhaps that the majority are at least content, if not happy with the status quo? Or does that lack of interest indicate also a lack of investment in the the city and how it is run? That is a question for you to answer.

On Tuesday 17 September there will be a preliminary election in Salem.

Four candidates will be on the ballot for the Ward 3 City Council seat Patty Morsillo, Leo Higgins, Robert Camire, and Jill Mulholland all are vying to represent their neighbors. Only two will advance to the November final election.

The Ward 6 council preliminary will feature three aspirants. Meg Riccardi, Tyler Terry, and Jerry Ryan. One will be eliminated and two will  make the final November ballot.

11 candidates will be on the ballot for the at-large council seats. Domingo Dominguez. Jeff Cohen, Ty Hapworth, Gary (Gigi) Gill, Belle Steadman. Alice Merkl, George McCabe, Elaine Milo, Arthur Sargent, Melissa Faulkner, and Conrad Prosniewski. The eight top voter getters will move on to the November election.

The school committee race presents a choice of seven candidates. Stephen Beauparlant, Jennifer Brown, Beth Anne Cornell, Kristin Pangallo, Donna Fritz, Jim Fleming. and Mary Manning. One will be eliminated.

We are hoping that you choose to vote on  September 17th. After all, it is an important election.

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