The core value of the democratic process is the belief in the rights of all people and the promotion of the ideals of equal participation and access to democratic decision-making. Campaigns make this possible by allowing citizens with any level of Political Expertise an opportunity to take ownership and make a difference in government.
At the lowest level, eligible citizens can decide whether or not to vote, and should they make the decision to vote they are able to choose who they want their representative to be. A campaign has the responsibility to pass pertinent information along to the electorate about their candidate. This is done through a myriad of tactics such as debates, printed literature, video’s and speaking with voters one on one. Without campaigns taking on this responsibility most citizens will know nothing about what the candidates stand for or what they plan on doing in office beyond the D, R or I next to their name in partisan races. The media cannot be trusted to give substantive unbiased coverage of candidates for office, especially in small elections, unfortunately media coverage of smaller campaigns seems to be focused on drama fueled accounts such as how much money was earned in a quarter and candidates being kicked out of KFC rather than comparing the candidates stance on an issue to her past achievements. Because of this campaigns must step in and educate the voters. Though campaigns are less likely to be unbiased, they are more likely to supplement the candidate’s stances with her past experiences.
Campaigns do so much more to contribute to the democratic process beyond this bottom tier. They also allow regular citizens with no political experience an opportunity to get their hands dirty and make a difference by volunteering their time and or money to support the direction that they want their government to go in. When citizens feel that they are able to help shape the government and that their representatives care their political efficacy will raise and they will become more apt to vote, and become more civic minded in general. Becoming involved in a campaign is the easiest way for the average citizen to feel as if they are making an important contribution to their community, state or country and that is the first step to being a more engaged citizen.
This said, I don’t know that there is a quick fix, single action that mayoral candidates can do to make the unengaged citizens want to vote in this mayoral race beyond personally reaching out to each voter and forging some sort of personal connection. A true change in voter turnout is going to have to be forged in school-aged children. These candidates will need to get young children and teenagers interested in politics so that when they become eligible voters they will already feel that they can make a difference with their vote and their actions. The focus of campaigns is to reach out to voters, but candidates must also look ahead and reach out to future generations of voters.