DEARBORN — When it comes to city council elections, many analysts and politicians agree: they have a bigger impact on peoples’ lives than the presidential election.
But despite that viewpoint, voter turnout for city council primary elections in Dearborn is usually low, especially compared to presidential races, and it’s expected to be that way again on Tuesday, August 4 for the 2009 primary.
“Every vote is going to matter in this election,” said Dearborn City Clerk Kathleen Buda. “One vote could very well separate the person that moves on from the person that doesn’t, although I hope it doesn’t come down to that.”
Twenty five candidates will vie for 14 spots in the November 3 general election, when seven of them will be voted in to seats on the city council. An unprecedented eight candidates are of Arab descent in the city council primary.
Dearborn’s races for mayor and city clerk are not included in the primary due to lack of candidates, as Mayor Jack O’Reilly will take on Michael Prus in the general election and Buda will run unopposed for her seat.
The last city council primary four years ago saw a voter participation rate of just over 14 percent according to Buda.
The last time Dearborn had as many candidates as it will have this year was in 1989 when there were 29, but Buda doesn’t believe that the number of candidates will affect the overall turnout much.
Community organizer Aimee Blackburn said that the importance of people coming out to vote can’t be overstated.
“These candidates work hard and have volunteered themselves to make our city better, and all they need from us is our vote,” she said. “To me, the least we can do is go to the polls on August 4th and vote.”
Blackburn compared the local elections to the presidential race.
“We have such high voter turnout for president, yet local elections impact the way we live every single day,” she said. “A decision you make on Tuesday affects us on Wednesday.”
Incumbent city council member and candidate George Darany agreed.
“We need more people out there voting and I don’t know how else to do it but through the media,” he said.
“The number will come up in the general election but it’s very, very important for candidates who want to make the final 14 to tell people to get out and vote in the primary.”
City council candidate Hussein Sobh talked about the importance of the Arab community’s vote.
“I think getting people out to vote is the most crucial part of the election because in Dearborn, Arab American candidates have a real shot at winning this term,” he said. “Every vote counts from all of the Dearborn residents.”
Fellow candidate Ali Sayed agreed that the city council election could have a drastic effect on the city.
“We need one voice, one reason, and one Dearborn, so value your vote,” he said. “This vote is really going to determine the future of our city.”