Well, that's a wrap. Considering that this blog was dedicated exclusively to documenting the April 26 At-Large Special Election, I've essentially run out of things to actually document. I'm sure there will be post-election thoughts to share, but in the coming weeks all that will be left of this blog is the archives. That being said, and as always, there are things I learned in the process that are worth sharing and using to inform any similar projects down the road.
- Despite appearing obsessed to any and all that call me a friend or a loved one, this was absolutely worth the time and trouble. I learned more about local politics and how elections actually happen than I could have imagined, and I hope that was effectively communicated through the blog. The overriding lesson I'm taking away is that you can only really get a sense of a candidate from seeing how he or she evolves over the course of a campaign. After a few forums, I found myself being able to recite candidate talking points before they could, but as the months wore on and I attended more events across the city, I started to get a better sense of their personalities and political styles. Obviously, I took the time and was afforded the chance to be obsessive about this, so that evolution became evident to me and helped inform my writing and analysis. Not everyone can do the same, making projects like this that much more useful to a regular voter with a job, kids and responsibilities.
- But...this can't be a one-person project next time around. I'd love to do this again, and seeing as there's a primary less than a year from now, I can see it happening. Just not alone. I missed any number of events and couldn't get to any number of stories or leads (sorry!) because there simply wasn't enough time, especially considering that I have a day-job and spent the last four months planning a wedding. (I'm certainly not trying to make excuses, but rather admit limitations.) Thankfully, there are a ton of talented writers, activists and concerned residents to make the next stab at this a joint project with more voices, more content, more reach, and more diversity of opinions and experiences.
- There's nothing that I did here that an established media outlet with more readers and broader distribution couldn't do. Turnout in Special Elections is so low for a variety of reasons, but I don't think we should discount a big one -- not even the media is particularly interested. Less than 10 percent of D.C. voters actually cast ballots yesterday. That's pathetic. If residents didn't know an election was coming, we can blame them for not being engaged, but we should also blame ourselves for not being engaging. I'm not pointing fingers, and I know I share in the blame as a self-appointed journalist/blogger/pundit -- but we can all do more, and we can do it better.
- There's certainly glory in winning an election, but I don't think the shit that candidates have to put up with in that process is recognized often enough. Candidates, campaign workers and volunteers are, by and large, hard-working, under-appreciated and sincerely committed to a better city. In the process of trying to communicate their message and gain votes, they sacrifice themselves to unforgiving schedules and unrelenting criticism, much of it from smart-asses like myself. For that, they deserve a beer, a handshake and, where appropriate, an apology.
- Big, big, big props to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics. Other criticisms aside, the staff I dealt with was courteous, professional and committed to making sure the April 26 Special Election went off without a hitch. When you consider that the board was forced to work within an uncertain budget and under relatively severe scrutiny from what happened in last year's elections, it did as much as possible to make sure that everyone who wanted to vote could do so.
That's about all for now, but there's likely more to come this week. I still want to digest the numbers and talk to a few people about how the election played out, but for now I'll leave these personal thoughts as something of a sign-off. Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting and thanks for participating.
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