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83 Percent of Milford Stayed Home for the Election

In the 1960s, the protesters had bumper stickers that read, "Suppose they had a war and nobody came?" Today's slogan might read, "Suppose they had an election and nobody came?"

With two selectman races on last week's town election ballot, some might have expected a large voter turnout. Instead, it was as dreary as the cold and rainy election day weather. Between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m., only 1,100 people had voted. Their numbers swelled to 3,136 by 8 p.m. – but still, it was only 17 percent of registered voters.

Just the day before the election, I ran into Town Moderator Mike Noferi in the Registry of Motor Vehicles parking lot. (OK, I literally didn't run into him with my car. I saw him as he got out of his car.) We chatted about the next day's election.

Noferi pointed out to me that – in 1969, back in those antiwar protest days – Milford had 9,000 registered voters and about 80 percent of them voted in that year's town election. Last week, 18,072 people could have voted, but 83 percent didn't.

The interesting thing about the ballot was the selectmen races: Just a few years ago, there was about 60 years of selectmen "experience" on the DeBartolomeis-Murray-Buckley board. Had Buckley lost last week – he only won by 189 votes – that experience level would have dropped to just the two years that Will Kingkade has.

The Town Meeting Members' section of the ballot had 27 vacancies on it. Write-ins filled all but five of them, but that's still five positions open for people to vote on the town's budget and where – or not – retail marijuana shops might be located.

I can't preach enough about ending voter apathy. My publisher, Al Holman, would tell me to add the fact that many people in our armed forces gave their lives over the past few centuries so that we could have the right to vote. I've watched news reports about people in other countries waiting hours upon hours to vote, when finally given the chance. Here, it seems, we take it for granted by letting someone else vote.

A few people have taken me to task about a comment I made on Milford TV's election night broadcast. When the first precinct's results were put up on the screen showing the vote total for selectman candidate Jessica Labrecque, I asked, "What were they thinking?" That was not meant as a knock on her for running or on the people who cast those votes.

I meant it as an honest question that perhaps should have been better stated as "Why were people voting for someone who made up a lie about another candidate and had no experience?" Given that the broadcast was live and I had no time to restate my question, Let's just say that I now have a greater appreciation for the politicians I see queried on TV news who are expected to give a concise, coherent answer in the five or six seconds allotted to them.

To restate something that my fellow election night commentator, Al Correia, said that night: Thanks to all the candidates who ran. Instead of complaining about "them," you took the effort to run and deserve everyone's praise for that.

As newly elected selectman Mike Walsh said that night, maybe these candidates will set an example for more people to run next year. And, just maybe, more people might vote next year.


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