Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Why I voted -- and you should, too

Off-year elections traditionally have low turn outs. And that's too bad. Because most people don't understand that all elections are important -- especially the local ones. This year here in the Old Dominion we're electing a governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.

So what? So, if you live in Virginia, these three leaders can have a great impact on your life. The governor and attorney general can set the tone for state government, deciding what laws to enact (or enforce), what tax initiatives to enact (or repeal), what programs and services get funded or defunded, and a variety of other things that directly impact everyday life.

A lot of attention is focused on the federal government, but a lot of what really concerns most citizens can be impacted by state, regional, and local officials. But because most people choose to sit out the "unimportant" elections, it means that those officials are selected by a much smaller pool.

Here's how the numbers break down for the county I live in:

Total population: 33,481
Total number of registered voters (2012) 21,830 total; 20,733 active.

So about 62% of the population votes. In other words, in a group of 3 people, 1 person gets to make the decision.

In the 2012 Presidential election, 16,118 people voted. That's 73% of the total who were registered, and 48% of the general population. In other words, in a group of 2 people, 1 made the decision and the other had to live with it.

In 2011, there weren't any big seats up for grabs, although our county's Commonwealth Attorney position was.  8,765 people decided who would get that job. That's about 40% of the registered voters, and 26% of the population. In other words, out of a group of 25 people, 1 person got to pick.

Now imagine yourself in a committee or a gathering of some kind with 25 people. A decision is put to the group, and one person stands up and said "I'll decide." Chances are you (and the other 23) would demand to know who died and made them king (or queen).

Well, if you choose not to vote, you did. And sometimes the small minority that actually turns out  makes decisions that run counter to the majority. But if the majority stays home, that's just too bad.

Not many people turned out to elect our county's Commonwealth Attorney. But that's the person who prosecutes criminals, decides which laws to strictly enforce and which require a more pragmatic approach. That's the person who cuts deals with defendants -- or decides not to. In other words, it's a person who has a direct impact on the safety of my home and family. I am not leaving that decision to somebody else!

Although I always encourage everyone to be good citizens, in a way I don't mind the way things are. I always vote, so I'm that one guy who gets to decide for the other 24. And in situations like that, it's good to be the king.

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