Trego has completed its school board elections – for the first time since 2007. Sixteen years – a long time for a democratic institution to operate in the absence of voter input. It isn’t a stretch to say that the people who make democracy work aren’t the people who win elections – democracy works at this basic level because of the people who lose elections.
I’ve been appointed to the board once – to fill a vacant position. Appointed to the board, by the board. After that, I was elected by acclamation. That means I was the only person to apply for the position, and there was no election. After all, there is no point in holding an election if there is just a single candidate. The actual expense of the election at Trego was $3,315.19 (not including the time the school clerk spent setting it up). For a change, for the first time in at least 16 years, the majority of our school trustees have been elected by the voters.
And the election occurred because there were enough candidates to have losers as well as winners. Without losers, voting doesn’t occur, and the winners are elected by acclamation. My term has 2 more years to run – and I hope that I am the last trustee elected by acclamation.
Only 15% of registered voters bothered to vote. That seems like a small percentage – but without the candidates who chose to run, who lost the election, no voter input would have selected the trustees. School trustees were the first ‘officials’ where elections were abandoned for ‘acclamation’. It’s understandable – the position, when done correctly, is notably unrewarding. Here, in Trego, in 1988, nepotism had reached a point where the County School Superintendent, Cindy Middig, was actively trying to correct it.
Cindy left office before her term was over, and the commissioners appointed Mary Hudspeth – about eight years later, I asked Mary why she didn’t do something about the nepotism at Trego. The answer was simple – Trego’s clerk completed the year-end reports perfectly, and that made the nepotism tolerable. Long story made short – for over 30 years, the county superintendent’s office ignored and enabled nepotism at Trego school.
So here’s to the folks who run for school boards and lose. The winners – elected by ‘acclamation’ – may well attempt to do things properly . . . or at least the best they know how. But without the people who are willing to run for office and lose the election, we lack actual public input, public decision making – hell, we lack any choice. We need those losers to have legitimate election winners.
Of course, Trego’s past problems – and the record of 16 years between the most recent elections doesn’t argue strongly that competitive elections will continue – are not unique in Lincoln County. The County had a single-party election in 2022. Part of that was a single word in the election codes: may. Had that word been exchanged for shall, the unelected county election administrator would not have had the power to guarantee single party dominance of Lincoln County’s political structure – subsection 7 would have been allowed to function.
The people who lose elections do as much or more to keep the democratic process functioning as the people who win. In general, I don’t mark the ballot for an unopposed candidate – but that isn’t enough – if we don’t have enough candidates to make sure that every elected position is contested, we’re on the same path that Cindy Middig tried to correct in Trego back in 1988. Democracy may well die in darkness – but elections by ‘acclamation’ and unopposed general elections probably qualify as darkness.
Thanks to our losing candidates. In Trego, each performed a larger service by legitimizing the winning candidates.
1 thought on “To The Folks Who Lose Elections”
Agree 100%. However, one of those losing candidates was the reason the election happened at all since he pointed out it was required. You might have gone a wee further to note that and to thank him for his service. The school board needs to read its policy book and learn to operate from it. Much unwholesome activity could be eliminated by doing so. But we are both happy with the election and the results. Good luck to all who continue to serve. ❤️