Silent majority responds to rumor
As close as they sat to each other, the two sides of the mining debate were still miles apart Tuesday night. The folding chairs at the Town of Morse annual meeting held a diverse group of Elyites, but neither side lit the fuse of debate over mining and Ely’s future.
Voter turnout in Morse was up 500 percent from last March when a supervisor seat was again the only choice to be made on the ballot.
Rumors had flown around town of a write-in campaign being launched at the last minute by a leader of the anti-mining crowd.
Instead of 30 voters filing in over the eight-hour polling period, additional ballots had to be made as the total nearly reached 150.
When the votes were counted, the rumor was dismissed and the sitting supervisor received 147 of the 148 votes cast. The only write-in vote went to a current supervisor who was not up for election.
Even though the rumor was untrue, the result was a showing of support for mining at a grassroots level in the most direct way, at the ballot box.
Usually the majority of voters in a township election are on the far side of 50, or perhaps they’re friends or related to the candidate. At Morse on Tuesday, there were voters of all ages which included some who hadn’t ever voted before. The common theme: to make sure the antis don’t win.
When the vote totals in March are usually in the 20s to 40s, launching a write-in campaign can unseat an incumbent. Doing so without people finding out is the tricky part. When nearly 150 cast ballots, you knew the word got out and people took time out of their day to vote when normally they wouldn’t have done so.
But when the polls closed and the annual meeting was set to begin, the attendance reflected the day: there were people at the meeting for no other single issue than mining. Yet the topic never came up.
What happened? It may have just been both sides playing defense, making sure the other didn’t try to pull a fast one and slip in a motion of support or opposition for copper-nickel mining.
When the public comment portion of the agenda was reached, the door opened for a resolution to be put before those in attendance. None was offered. Instead the meeting was adjourned and the fuse was extinguished. There would be no debate over the contentious issue.
In fact, there had been no debate the entire meeting even though typical township funding issues were brought up. Two historically hot issues, funding for the city library and the township’s joint fire department with Fall Lake were easily passed by those present.
Yet even though the meeting was quiet, the plethora of ballots was an indication that people feel very strongly about the economic future of the Ely area, even when the threat is only a rumor. Voters who turned out Tuesday made sure if the rumor was true, they were going to do their part to vote their beliefs.
Maybe that alone was a victory of sorts for the silent majority who support a prosperous economic future with new mining jobs and a return to a healthy community.