Today is election day, for those of you reading on Tuesday, September 15th. That’s likely most of you. And even if you don’t live in the Florida 8th Senate district, or the 13th Jacksonville City Council district, or the 1st Duval County School District, I hope you’ll continue reading.
For those of you who ARE eligible to vote in those races, for pity’s sake go to the polls and vote. Readers of The Jacksonville Observer know who is my choice for the State Senate, and I’ll be attending that victory party tomorrow night.
You should go to the polls because these local elections are in some ways the most important. If you believe, as I do, that the government closest to the constituents is the most responsive and can be the most effective, then this is your election. State Senate, City Council, and School Board. It doesn’t get much more local than that. Then, too, this is a special election which was the result of a chain of events set in motion by the untimely death of State Senator Jim King. That race was pushed up by a year, and with a Jacksonville City Councilman and a member of the School Board resigning to run for the Senate, those offices had to be filled at the same time.
Voter turnout is expected to be low. 10 to 12 percent by some estimates, which is honestly pathetic. You can’t turn on the television or radio (unless you consume ONLY public broadcasting) without seeing and hearing endless commercials either lauding or lambasting the candidates. The local media has done it’s part to inform people about the candidates, some more favorably than others, it seems. I was fortunate enough to moderate one discussion among all four, and one in which three participated. I do love being involved in the process. I think one of the things I miss most about my former position is that I did a lot of that. One of my ongoing career goals is to find a way that allows me to do it again.
But think about it. People complain about government. At every level. “Those Guys Never Do What I Think They Should,” is a common refrain. But when you ask them if they voted, the get defensive, or look at you like you’re from Mars. Lots of people turn out for the big national or state elections, but when it comes to a special election which can determine incumbency for the upcoming normal cycle, they don’t bother. And by the time there’s an incumbent, it’s often too late.
So, I’ve done my part. I’ve tried to do my part to impartially give candidates a forum in which to express their views, and by all reviews I’ve been successful at that, and I’ve gone to vote. And I’ve encouraged others to vote. Of course I hope they vote for the people I support, but I really just hope they vote. At least the informed folks. Sometimes I think anyone voting on name recognition alone should just stay home, but that’s not democracy either. If more people get out and vote, at least we’ll have a true sense of the “will of the people”, and not an election decided by a fraction of the eligible voters.
So if you’re eligible, take 10 minutes Tuesday and go vote. The lines (sadly) won’t be long and the ballot is short, one or two races. Badda-bing badda-boom … and you’ll be done.
And get ready, because with State elections in 2010 and local races in 2011, we’re only at the start of a long political season.
For those of you in far flung places that don’t have an election today, wake up, pay attention, and know when your next opportunity to vote is rolling around. Learn about the issues and the candidates, and make your voice heard. Better yet, pick someone that you agree with and get involved. An informed, involved electorate is the key to good government (unless you think that phrase is an oxymoron). The folks in city halls, state capitals, and Washington D.C. are supposedly there to represent you. The only way you can be sure that happens it to be involved in the process.
Go Vote. You’ll be glad you did.