Local Elections to be held on Nov. 3

Rachel Jenks

On Nov. 3 voters have the opportunity to impact the way their city is run by voting in the local elections. What the voters may see on the ballot changes depending on the city.

Anything from mayoral elections to changes in taxation may be put to the vote, contingent on which official terms are up and which proposals have been put forth.

Marquette residents will have the ability to elect new members to the Marquette City Commision, as well as members to the Marquette Board of Light and Power.

The commissioners’ function is to administer the government of the county. They have the power to levy taxes, enact and manage local ordinances and run government services. The Marquette City Commision consists of seven elected officials, serving three-year terms with no more than two consecutive terms.

Commissioner Sara Cambensy and Mayor J. Michael Coyne’s first terms are up this year, meaning there will be two commissioner seats open. Vying for the positions are Cambensy, as well as Meredith Lyons, Mike Plourde and Jason Zdunek. Plourde is a radio personality at 101.9 FM and has run for seat of commissioner three times before. Both Zdunek and Lyons are new to politics, neither having been in nor run for office previously.

The Board of Light and Power is responsible for providing power and energy to the residents and businesses of Marquette County. The board of directors consists of five elected officials, also serving three-year terms with no more than two consecutive terms.

There will be two chairs open for the Light and Power board of directors. Both Chairman of the Board John Prince and Vice Chairwoman and Secretary Karen Kimar-Johnson are coming to the end of two consecutive terms.

John Braamse, Jerry Irby, David A. Puskala and Kenneth C. Wanberg are all candidates for the two open seats. Irby has a long history in Marquette politics, being a former mayor, serving on the Michigan Commission on Services to the Aging since 2009, and running unsuccessfully for the Board of Light and Power in 2014. Braamse ran in 2013 for the board, and Wanberg in 2014, neither being victorious. Puskala is the one candidate without political experience.

According to FairVote.org, local elections often have the lowest voter turnout of any public election. Local elections often lack the publicity that larger campaigns have, creating unawareness among the community.

Linda Talsma, Marquette County clerk, said that if there is a 30 percent turnout for this election, it will be very successful.

“The turnout depends on what’s on the ballot, of course,” Talsma said. “There are no proposals on this ballot, so the turnout probably won’t be as high as it would have been if there were.”

While the turnout is often low, the impact of the local government can have the largest direct impact on a community. Local governments have control over many services such as roadways and electricity. By citizens voting for offices like mayor and commissioners, and proposals like tax increases or decreases, they increase their own control in government.

For university students it can be difficult to step away from school in order to go home and vote. If voters are not able to make it to their voting precincts on an election day, they are still able to vote through an absentee ballot.

“There’s an application for an absentee voting ballot right on the Michigan Secretary of State website,” Talsma said. “The voter just has to fill it out and return it to the district in which they’re registered to vote.”

According to the Michigan Secretary of State, an application for absentee voting must reach the city or township clerk by no later than 2 p.m. on the Saturday prior to the election. To request an absentee ballot, the voter must already be registered to vote in the precinct from which he or she is requesting the ballot.

Once the voter receives the absentee ballot, the completed ballot must be returned to the city or township clerk by 8 p.m. on election day for the vote to count.

By voting absentee, citizens are still able to make an impact in their local governments without being directly present. This way they are able to secure a government they agree with when they are home to be affected by it.

“We usually see a pretty good mix of people, but I would love to see more young voters come out and participate in the local elections,” Talsma said.

For Marquette voters, polling places for precincts one and two will be held at Baraga Gym at City Hall. For precincts three, four and five, polling will be at the Marquette Armory. For precincts seven and eight, voting will take place at the YMCA.