Low Buffalo turnout for primaries reveals disturbing lack of voter interest - The Buffalo News

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Low Buffalo turnout for primaries reveals disturbing lack of voter interest

Voter turnout in the City of Buffalo for Tuesday’s primary was dismal. Residents have to do better.

As News political reporter Robert J. McCarthy wrote, only 14,000 Democrats voted the other day. In a city of about 261,000 residents, that number is embarrassing and just plain pathetic.

Less than 6 percent of the city’s population gave Mayor Byron W. Brown a landslide into his third term. It was as if challenger Bernard A. Tolbert hadn’t even been on the ballot.

Brown was and is the better-qualified of the two to sit in the executive chair. He has done a reasonably good job, as this page said in endorsing him, if not all of his own doing.

Tolbert, former head of Buffalo’s FBI office, ran a low-key campaign, but a campaign nonetheless. Voters should have recognized his presence on the ballot by showing up to the polls to help decide this contested race, even if to support the incumbent mayor.

Not to mention deciding other important offices up for grabs that could have been influenced by the stay-at-home voters. Absentee ballots are being counted to decide the Democratic primary for sheriff between Richard E. Dobson and the endorsed candidate, Bert D. Dunn. In another very close race, County Legislator Timothy R. Hogues slightly trailed challenger Barbara Miller-Williams.

Local political experts used to think a turnout of 40 percent to 45 percent was low. But 20 percent is inexcusable. Why the apathy, beyond assuming voting is the other guy’s responsibility?

One reason raised was the fact that both mayoral candidates are black. If true, that’s the saddest excuse of all. Is it necessary to pit a white candidate against a black candidate in order to rile up the electorate?

More understandable but no less excusable is the fact that there were no Common Council races. Perhaps voters would have inconvenienced themselves if they thought their favorite local Council member needed their support.

Of course, there’s always the other guy to blame. Tolbert’s low-key campaign against Brown wasn’t inspiring. He really didn’t give voters a good reason to unseat Brown. But, again, that’s not a reason to shirk a civic duty.

Voters in a democracy get the government they want. Non-voters shouldn’t complain about the job the mayor is doing. Brown wasn’t guaranteed a landslide. He had to work to get that responsible 6 percent of the voters to the polls.

Brown faces an opponent in the general election on Nov. 5. Voters will have a decision to make between the incumbent and Republican Sergio R. Rodriguez. City residents should make their decision, then get out and vote.

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