Primary Election Day, March 18, will determine the Democrat and Republican candidates for the ballot in the November General Election.  Although its name should indicate its importance, in the past a primary election has often been accorded only second-tier importance. 

Granted, few party races are contested, and often local incumbents are not challenged. In last April’s election, only three of the 11 City positions offered a choice of candidates. The three who won those races – all incumbents – prevailed by margins of a few hundred in a thin stream of voters. While about 25 percent of registered voters voted in the First Ward election last April, the overall voter turnout was about 15 percent. 

The lack of contested races erodes not only voter interest but also voter confidence that going to the polls will make a difference. 

But apathy here must go even deeper, because the School Board elections last year generated only about 15 percent of the potential votes.  Further, the most recent referendum question – a 2009 referendum about the possibility of a school in the Fifth Ward – elicited only about 29 percent of the registered voters in School District 65. That District includes not only Evanston but also parts of Skokie.

While there may be few contested races to entice voters, the referendum question about dissolving the government of the Township of Evanston might do the trick. Evanston Township, coterminous with the City of Evanston, has a separate government. It is overseen by the 10 members of the City Council – the mayor and the nine aldermen – who serve as trustees. The two main functions of local township government are to administer General Assistance funds to the neediest residents and to help residents file appeals of their property taxes. After the resignation of the elected Township Supervisor, trustees appointed City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz as interim or temporary supervisor.

 State legislation authorized the City Council to place the dissolution question on the March 18 ballot. That legislation also mandated that the City Council and the City assume the responsibilities and duties of the Township. To date, no full plan has been presented on how the City will ensure that the level of services will remain the same if the Township is dissolved. 

There will be a forum on the Township at 10 a.m. on March 1 at the Civic Center.

There is still time for new or relocated voters to register. To register vote, a person must be a United States citizen, be at least 18 years old by Election Day and have resided in the precinct for at least 30 days before Election Day.

City Clerk Rodney Greene is Evanston’s local election official. His staff members also function as deputy registrars to register voters and process absentee ballot applications prior to each election from the Clerk’s office during regular business hours at the Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

Those planning to register should bring two pieces of identification, at least one of which has their current address on it.  It is not necessary to declare party affiliation to register to vote.

Registration for the March 18 primary election closes on Feb. 18. We encourage all potential voters – including especially those who will be 18 by March 18 – to register to vote and to become informed about the issues and engaged in the process.

Apathy is a luxury the voting public should not afford. There is often a wide gap between what people care about and what affects them.