Is Political Representation A Two-Way Street? Does, For Example, Apathetic Houston Merit Municipal Representation?
This is part of an occasional Texas Liberal series called “Central Questions.”
Is political representation a “two-way street?” Can a group of voters, or a group of citizens who do not vote, perform their civic duties so poorly that they no longer merit representation?
Here in Houston, for one example, our Mayor and City Council members are limited to three two-year terms. A condition of employment for these officials is acceptance of the fact that your employers, the citizens of Houston, do not trust you beyond a certain point.
Why would someone want that job?
Further, voter turnout in Houston for municipal elections is terrible. Runoffs for council seats have been know to attract between 5% and 10% of voters. Even on General Municipal Election Day, most citizens do not vote.
If people don’t care who represents them, why bother to run?
If the question seems abstract, and there’s nothing wrong with abstract, it might be said that by limiting Council terms and not voting, citizens do, in fact, cede municipal representation to large money donors and interest groups who, for whatever reasons, are involved in the process.
In this way, maybe the “abstract” question does lead to a solid, and distressing, answer.
Above is a “big picture” way to look at Houston.