Community Voice: Ed McKeon, “Voting With the Townies”

Earlier today, Molly Salafia, blogger for the Middletown Eye and town candidate for Planning & Zoning, posted a lengthy Wesleying comment questioning the effects of voter registration drives at Wesleyan and imploring student voters to keep town citizens (read: not students) in mind rather than mere party affiliation. “Please be careful when you vote,” Salafia writes. “There are real families attached to every decision you make.”

I’m not sure why Salafia chose that particular comments forum, but the discussion that ensues is well worth skimming—particularly the comment from prominent M-Town voice Ed McKeon, Democratic candidate for the Board of Education (Ed 4 Ed!) and founder of the Middletown Eye. Today McKeon sends in his own plea for informed voting, arguing that “a misused vote may be worse than a non-vote.” What follows is McKeon’s guest comment in full: “Voting with the Townies.” (Let’s continue the discussion in this comments section as well.)

Voting With the Townies, Ed McKeon

I applaud the efforts of Wesleyan Democrats to enroll new voters.  There’s nothing more basic and important we do in a Democracy than vote.

Still, a misused vote may be worse than a non-vote.

I challenge all Wesleyan students registered to vote in Middletown, and who are planning to vote on November 8 to answer the following questions, without the use of your laptop or smartphone.

Name three candidates for the Common Council.  Name three candidates for Board of Education.  Explain what joining the Mattabassett district will do for Middletown.

What are the following people running for: Berch, Gregario, Hart, Pulino.

If you’re having trouble answering, you’re in good company.  Unfortunately, a too-large proportion of Middletown voters would have trouble coming up with the answers, too.

Everyone who has driven through the streets of town knows the names Drew and Giuliano.  But even if you’ve passed a passel of red, white and blue lawn signs, you might not know the difference between a Klattenburg and a Dypa.  Though you should, if you’re voting.  Do you even know which is a D, and which is an R?

I can’t imagine any Wesleyan undergrad voting for a presidential candidate whose name they didn’t recognize.  Still, Wes students, and uninformed Midd residents alike, will march into the voting booth and circle names of candidates who they couldn’t pick out of a lineup.  And they’ll be voting for candidates who will have a direct impact on the community in which they live.  In fact, they’ll likely vote for candidates, unintentionally, who have political beliefs antithetical to their own.

Maybe you’ll say, “I’m a Republican, and I intend to vote straight Republican.”  Or maybe you’d say the same about the Democratic slate.  But I can guarantee you’d be surprised if you knew the facts.  Town politics can have the bizarro-world effect of making Democrats seem like Republicans and Republicans seem like Democrats.

For example, would you be surprised to find out that one of the candidates is an avid river canoeist who champions the cause of clean water, and preserving the environment?  Would you be surprised to find out the candidate is a conservative Republican?

Or maybe you would reconsider your vote if you knew the answers to these questions:

  • Which candidate has a radio show on WESU?
  • Which candidate has worked diligently to reduce the carbon footprint in city-owned buildings?
  • Candidates from which party voted consistently against unionized municipal employees in the city?
  • Which candidates mentor students in the local school system?
  • Which candidate voted against the appointment of a city director because that director didn’t worship in the right church?
  • Which candidates supported building an Army Reserve Training Center in a pristine forest in the Maromas section of town?
  • Which candidate supported a ban on distributing food to people in need through Food Not Bombs?
  • Which candidates refused to consider a municipal resolution against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
  • Which party endorsed Joe Lieberman against anti-war Democratic Senatorial candidate Ned Lamont?
  • Which parties voted to limit the first amendment right of residents by moving public commentary to the end of municipal meetings?

Clearly, if you knew the answer to these questions, you might not so readily cast a vote for certain candidates.

I encourage every registered student to vote, but to vote intelligently.  Know the candidates whom you’re voting for.  You can find candidate profiles on the Middletown Eye, the Middletown Patch or the Middletown Press websites.

Voting is essential to a well-functioning democracy.  But it’s a responsibility no citizen should ever take lightly.  Make your vote count by voting for people who view the world the way you do.

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  • Jen Alexander

    I’m a Wes Alum (class of ’88) and a townie (for the past 25 years).  Newsflash:  I’m still not sure who exactly I’m voting for on November 8th.  Ed’s list is a great one – I passed the 3 questions, but he had me stumped on a  few of the “name this candidate” puzzles.  To new Wesleyan voters, I’d like to say this:  some of the great learning experiences of my life have been in voting for the wrong person – so I’d say be careful, but don’t be afraid to get your feet wet.  

    Even for locals, there are lots of new candidates to learn about.  I’ve been reading their profiles on the Middletown Eye, asking friends, and looking out for partisanship or personal agenda.  I’m also looking for signs of compassion and an ability to put community ahead of self.   That’s a lot to try to discern from an online profile.   But I’m not adverse to voting for people that I sometimes disagree with – in fact it’s inevitable.

    Some elections have a theme – like change, or the economy, or us vs. them.  I’d say the meta-question of the 2011 election is this:  can we elect a group of people who can be civil while they get on with the business of making Middletown an ever-better place to live?  

  • John Brush

    Ed’s check list and questionnaire is certainly a comprehensive and useful guide to intelligent voting. I would offer one caveat. Calculating and comprehending the world view of candidates and, for that matter,  of one’s fellow citizens or friends is problematic. The job of the voter is to discern which candidates have agreeable opinions on issues important to the voter. I think world views are not as useful as stands on actual issues before the electorate.

  • Ross

    Ed 4 Ed!  He’s not a Democrat anymore, and the world’s a better place for it!

    He’s clearly an extremely reasonable man and, aside from his sensible positions on education in this community, I think his good character, from what I know of the man, is enough to vote for him.  I’m pleased that the Wesleyan College Greens endorsed him, and I’m pleased that Wesleying is giving him space for thoughtful commentary like this.

  • Fz

    fuck people don’t even know the difference when it comes to presidential elections- that is the issue with the party system- it allows people to not have to think about what candidates actually are saying

  • Guest

    Fred T. Carroll for Common Council!

    • Ed McKeon

      Go Fred.