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It’s Not Glamorous, But It’s Democracy
By Damon Circosta
Published: Sep. 21, 2009
RALEIGH - Politics are popular again.
After years of indifference, our collective attention has once again turned towards public life. From the 2008 election through the smoldering debates on health care and the financial industry, Americans are tuning in and paying attention.
No doubt the debate in Congress and the rallies in Washington, D.C. are of great importance. But over the coming months and even closer to home there is another brand of politics playing out. It’s local election season, and the stakes are high.
Local elections might not make the cable news or garner the same sort of attention that we see in Washington, but they often have much more at stake for our personal lives than anything going on in D.C. Indeed, such seemingly mundane races as those for town council or school board affect such vital aspects of life as the water we drink, the neighborhoods we live in and the schools our children attend.
The people who win local elections are the people who decide where to locate a new school or how much you will pay in property taxes. It’s not glamorous, but local elections are the cornerstone of democracy.
The good news about these elections is that they are accessible. Chances are you know at least one of the candidates running personally. If you don’t, you have ample opportunities to meet them.
These campaigns aren’t waged through high-dollar media blitzes. Candidates for local office win one vote at a time through meet-and-greets, handshakes and rallies. If you haven’t had a chance to talk to a politician, local elections afford that opportunity, and you will be amazed at how much you can learn.
Unlike Congress, local elected officials are part-time public servants. They might spend their evenings on zoning issues and policy debates, but during the day they are teachers, business owners and stay-at-home parents.
The local election season may have snuck up on us, with the white-hot health-care debate in Washington, D.C. and the rush to get kids back to school. Fortunately, it’s not too late to register and vote in this year’s contests.
In the final stretch before Election Day, North Carolinians can take advantage of same-day registration during the early voting period. With same-day registration, you can register to vote and cast a ballot at the same time. Contact your county board of elections office to find the same-day registration site nearest you.
Before you go to the polls, get the facts on the candidates. Your hometown newspaper is a great source for information on the contenders, and the candidates themselves often have Web sites where they tell you about their qualifications and stances on the issues that matter to your community.
With candidates so readily accessible and same-day registration making voting convenient, there’s no excuse not to cast a ballot in this year’s contests. Indeed, our votes will never carry as much weight as they do in local elections.
President Franklin Roosevelt once observed, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people the right to vote except the American people themselves -- and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”
Our right to vote is gift, the price for which is still being paid by patriots at home and abroad. If we are to honor that gift, we must exercise it -- not only in a ballyhooed presidential contest, or when Congress is up for grabs, but also in local elections with much less fanfare, yet just as much at stake.
Let’s get the facts on the candidates, then let’s go vote.