TRAVERSE CITY — The nine people vying for seats on Traverse City’s commission face a legion of important community votes if they’re successful in their quest for office. Their voting records in other local elections suggests a mixed bag of engagement.
The city’s current mayor hasn’t missed a vote on any election issue since 2000, while one commission hopeful managed to make it to the polls just once in the last decade.
A review of voting records of candidates for the city commission shows Mayor Michael Estes maintains a perfect voting record since 2000, while his opponent, Rick Buckhalter, failed to vote in six of 10 elections over the same period.
Voting records obtained from the Grand Traverse County Clerk show many city commission candidates made their way to the polls more consistently on election day over the past eight years than in elections from 2000 to 2004.
Commission candidate John Reid cast the fewest local votes in recent years. Reid, 28, spent six years in the U.S. Coast Guard and voted in the 2008 November general election. He returned to the area in 2011 but doesn’t believe he moved his voter registration back into Grand Traverse County until 2013.
He did not vote in Northwestern Michigan College’s August millage election after he declared as a candidate.
“As a military member being gone 200 days a year, I didn’t feel it was my right to vote without being informed,” Reid said. “It would be a disservice to the people.”
Buckhalter cast his first ballot of the 21st Century at the November 2004 general election. Since then he skipped two August primaries, two presidential primaries, and one school board election.
“I didn’t get politically active until 2004,” Buckhalter said. “I don’t vote in primaries. I don’t belong to a party.”
Presidential primaries require voters to publicly declare a party preference and are not always counted by the political parties when choosing their nominee for president. August primaries do not require political affiliation, and for local races the winners often run unopposed in November.