One of the factors affecting voter interest in local elections is that coverage is watered down from what it once was. Not only are voters more in the dark about candidates but about pertinent issues.

I walked many miles ahead of the last election and had hundreds of conversations. I was stunned by the lack of knowledge most people had with regard to the investment the Duluth school district is making in the Central High School property on top of the hill. I’d say at least 80% of the people I spoke to had absolutely no idea the former Central High School was going to be torn down and millions of dollars were going to be spent to build a bus barn and administration building.

Democracy works best with an informed citizenry, and there are several things that are failing here.

Regarding School Board races in Duluth, voter participation is chilled by the board’s secretive, undemocratic style of governing. Rather than finding a way to go around the voters on another major project, the Central site, the board should have put a bond referendum on this fall’s ballot. A referendum would have helped pull people to the polls. It also would have spurred more interest in board races and would have forced the school district to go out and make the case — actually inform the citizens — about what it was proposing doing and why.

In a low-turnout year, Duluth’s dominant political party has an even greater advantage because of money and organization and the ability to move its votes. This uneven playing field — and the odds against any candidate not endorsed by the DFL and unions winning — is also increasingly repressing turnout. Only two people challenged the party-endorsed candidates in four School Board races this year, and both had run before. Some new people considered a run but were afraid to get in. I was told they didn’t want to waste an entire summer in a losing effort. They were also worried that in this politically fraught environment there might be fallout from angering the powerful group that dominates the town.

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The fewer people who run, the fewer voices represented in the debate, and the fewer people who show up at the polls.

Loren Martell of Duluth was an unsuccessful candidate for an At Large seat on the Duluth School Board in the Nov. 2 election. It was his fifth run for School Board since 2011.