IT’S ELECTION TIME, when every day citizens get to make a direct difference in how their government — whether federal, state or local — is run. Unfortunately, far too many check out and fail to vote.
But the stakes are too high for people to just sit out elections. No, we won’t be choosing a president on Tuesday, but the fact is that state and local governments — city and county councils as well as school boards in particular — are the closest to the people, making sometimes weekly decisions that affect residents’ everyday lives.
We’ve got a governor to choose on Tuesday. And just in Richland and Lexington counties, there are legislative races to choose representatives who will help make state laws as well as levy taxes and fees and set the state's multi-billion-dollar budget.
And there are some hotly contested school board contests, particularly in Richland District 2. School board races often aren’t given the attention they deserve. Voters lazily opt to cast ballots for familiar faces, whether they’re capable or not, or for people friends or neighbors suggest. That’s a poor way to choose members of bodies that have a tremendous impact children’s education and on how tens of millions of dollars are spent.
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Tuesday’s ballot also includes a bond referendum in Lexington 2, which is asking residents to allow it to borrow money to build new schools. Also, Lexington County is asking voters to approve a penny-on-the-dollar sales increase to pay for road improvements as well as other projects. Meanwhile, Chapin voters will determine whether to change the town’s form of government by reducing the power of the mayor.
You’d think such wallet, quality-of-life and local issues would draw strong voter participation. But no one’s expected a run on the polls; turnout is expected to be disappointing. But it doesn’t have to be. At least, you don’t have to be among the no-shows.
Some registered voters stay home because they believe their votes don't count, or they’re simply not interested in the elections. Really?
It’s all our civic duty to get out and vote.
While it might sound cliche, the truth is that many people have suffered, bled and died so we might have that right. It is inexcusable to fail to vote. Purpose in your mind right now that when the polls open you’re going to be there — or at least be on the way.
On Tuesday, go cast your vote. And, remember, it’s your vote. It doesn’t belong to any party or to any candidate. It’s your chance to have a say in how your government is run and who runs it.
Whatever you do, don’t you dare stay away from the polls.