“Do you remember when…” That’s a thing we start to say to ourselves when we get older. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.


I remember the first time I voted. I registered as a Republican so I could vote for California Rep. Pete McCloskey. I thought it was important to oppose Richard Nixon even though there was no chance that the incumbent president would not be his party’s nominee. He was nominated in August, two months after the Watergate break-in. I voted for George McGovern, too, along with a few other people. Nixon was elected in a landslide, carrying 49 states with 60.7%of the vote. I have voted in every national election since. It has always felt like a duty.

I wish I could boast about my voting record in state and local elections. I can’t. I had a busy life. I did not give it much thought. I didn’t care about who represented me. What real difference did it make?

Since I’ve gotten involved in the government of our town, my perspective has changed. Scarborough is such a great place to live because of countless decisions made by elected officials over the years. These decisions affect the roads we drive on, the schools we send our kids to, the way we preserve our environment and how we protect our safety. They balance the needs of dog owners and beach walkers, businesses and residents, young families and retired people. They codify strategies for dealing with growth, traffic and climate change. Ultimately, our taxes are determined by these decisions.

The decisions made by local officials affect your daily life and mine more than any national or state election, and yet when we have an election that is just about Scarborough, most of us don’t vote.

The turnout in our June election suggests that there are a lot of folks in our town who are just like I was. Scarborough has 17,410 active voters and 3,133 people – that’s 18% – turned out to vote. The school budget was on the ballot. School board candidates were on the ballot. Democratic and Republican candidates for the fall election were selected in this election. The choices made last June will have a lasting impact.


Low voter turnout in local and off-year national elections creates opportunities for people with extreme views and positions. People with passion on all sides of the issues know that House Speaker Tip O’Neill was right when he said that “all politics is local.” When town councils, school boards, and state legislators are dominated by ideologues, their views become our laws.

It’s fair to say that Scarborough has done very well under the guidance of the minority who do vote. It is also true that the political climate in our nation has changed radically. Leaving elections to the minority may not be the best choice going forward.

Scarborough has been blessed to have smart, thoughtful and committed citizens of all political stripes who have been willing to serve this community as elected officials. They have worked to balance competing needs and priorities with compassion and pragmatism. They did this mostly without my vote and perhaps without yours. Going forward, it might be worthwhile considering the wisdom of leaving it up to others to choose local officials and decide local issues.

Don Cushing is a member of the Scarborough Town Council. The views and opinions expressed Council Corner are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Scarborough Town Council.

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