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Why Is Voter Turnout Low in Worcester School Committee Elections?

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

 

As a Worcester Public Schools teacher and UMass doctoral student, I am examining Worcester School Committee election-voting patterns. The purpose of this study is to examine low voter turnout, which is a rampant problem in both Worcester and across America.

If you are a Worcester resident who is eligible to vote, please take this survey.

Voter turnout varies greatly across socioeconomic status groups, minority groups, and citizen status. Also, the amount of adults registering to vote is low and varies among race and citizen status. This leads to the problem of equity of voter turnout in our nation as a whole.

Since residents are more likely to vote for legislation or candidates that benefit their interests, unequal voter participation can lead to inequity in public decisions. Low voter turnout is a common and growing problem in our nation - specifically in urban municipal elections.

With a population of 181,045, Worcester is the second largest city in New England. The Worcester Public Schools system is governed through at-large representational democracy. Every two years, a six-member School Committee along with the mayor, who chairs both the School Committee and the City Council, are chosen in at-large elections.

This chart represents the percentage of eligible voters who voted in the 2011 school committee elections.

On average, only 20 percent of Worcester’s registered voters participate in these elections. The registered-voter population is 90,729, while U.S. Census data tell us there are 141,103 residents who are 18 years or older and living in Worcester. There are 72,248 registered voters Worcester who did not cast a ballot in any of the past six municipal elections (2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011). Only 4,923 registered voters participated in all of those elections.

The results of my doctoral survey will help to respond to the following research questions:

· Why do voting-eligible Worcester residents choose not vote in School Committee elections?

· Which voting-eligible Worcester residents choose to vote in School Committee elections?

· What are the barriers that prevent voting-eligible Worcester residents from casting a ballot in School Committee elections?

This study is significant because the findings may impact practice and policy when it comes to Worcester School Committee elections.

 

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