Township elections - grassroots government

Next week, voters in several area townships will go to the polls and select a slate of township officers to serve for the next two or three years.
Township elections are politics at the basic level. In our immediate area, The Times covers eight townships, four in Scott County and two each in Le Sueur County and Rice County. Of those eight townships, three - Helena and Belle Plaine townships in Scott County and Lanesburgh Township in Le Sueur County - have chosen in recent years to move their township elections to November, to coincide with the general elections.
The March township elections are usually characterized by low voter turnout. This is one of the reasons that two more townships - Cedar Lake and New Market townships - are considering making the move to November elections. A referendum to make that move appears on next week’s ballot. One benefit is that this is a cost-saving move, because the townships would no longer be required to bear the entire cost of the township elections. It would also improve voter turnout. Last year, Webster township had a supervisor race decided by one vote, 73-72, while Derrynane Township had just 10 voters show up to reelect three incumbents with no opposition.
Still, there is something to be said for keeping the elections in March… Local elections sometimes get lost in the crowded ballots in November - especially during presidential election years, and voters in the March elections often are more aware of local issues.
Even if the election is moved to November, the second Tuesday in March is still important for township government. Towns continue to hold their annual meetings on this date, where residents can offer their input on taxes and other issues in the township.
The bottom line is, voters in these townships need to consider what is best for their town. In order for government to work on any level, they need to be informed about the issues and help make good decisions. They also need to show up at the polls, regardless of when the elections are held.