People urge their neighbors to get out, learn and vote
Some Des Moines residents have been in-tune with an upcoming election the past few weeks. While school board elections are known for their low turnout, those who came out to a candidate forum a few weeks ahead of election day said their votes matter more than in any other election.
The power of voting
“This is where your vote can carry more weight because people don’t show up,” said Jennifer Schumann, a mother of a kindergartener in the Des Moines Public School system. “Voting is a right, a privilege, sort of a duty.”
She attended the forum for the Des Moines Public School Board election on Aug. 31 with her mother, Brenda Schumann, a former schoolteacher.
“I think the school boards are very important,” Brenda said. “It’s a shame we don’t have more people participate, but in order to participate, you have to know something about them.”
That’s why about three dozen people came through the Mickle Center during a forum hosted by the Polk County Democrats.
“I haven’t really read too much yet,” said Joan Nassif, who has lived in Des Moines for 20 years. “I like to see them in person and hear what they have to say.”
She got a chance to do that, her husband Bill by her side. Their kids graduated from Des Moines Public Schools about five years ago, but that doesn’t stop their participation in the school board election.
“It’s critical to educate our children and enable them with the tools to think for themselves,” Bill said. “Education is important whether you have children in school or not.”
The dedication of an alum
Michael Waeks was at that candidate forum, three weeks before the election. He lives in Urbandale, just outside of the Des Moines Public School District. He doesn’t have any kids and can’t even vote on Sept. 12.
“I’m a big supporter of the Des Moines School District,” the East High alum explained. “I think it’s important that we have strong school board members that are going to support those same values that I grew up with. I’m here to ensure that we’ve got them and we get the right ones elected.”
While most people were undecided on who they were voting for, Waeks had some candidates in mind that he thought would be just right.
Challenges of getting involved
While nothing stopped them from coming out to the forum, these parents and former-students said they can see why some people don’t make it out to vote.
“If I didn’t have (my parents) helping me, I wouldn’t be able to come here with a five-year-old and pay attention,” Jennifer said.
“I think the timing is an issue, too, because it doesn’t align with other elections,” Bill said. “It’s really unfortunate, but a lot of people don’t feel like it’s as important.”
The forum started with a “candidate social hour,” where candidates talked with voters about their ideas and goals and listened to concerns. That was followed by a Q and A session facilitated by the Affirmative Action and Outreach chair of the Polk County Democrats.
Brenda said these forums are the best way to make a decision come election day.
“An in-person forum is just a better way to get a feel for the candidates as opposed to simply the responses they make to written questions,” she said. “It’s just a better way to get a feel for the competency and the character of the individuals who are running.”
Barron and Delagardelle-Shelley are running against Louisa Dykstra for the two at-large seats on the board. Dionna Langford is running unopposed in District Two, as is Teree Caldwell-Johnson is District Four.
Election Day is Sept. 12. Voting is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sept. 8 is the last day to request an absentee ballot by mail. The last day to request an absentee ballot in person at the auditor’s office is Sept. 11.