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Our Views: Why a single vote matters

We only get the leaders we want when we take the time to select them carefully

POSTED: May 18, 2014 1:00 a.m.

“Why vote?”

“Does my vote really count?”

“Why should I bother?”

It’s easy to criticize voter apathy and wonder why more people don’t take part in our elections. But those still are valid questions and deserve an answer.

Yes, your vote counts, and it’s worth your time and effort. And here’s why.

We often say we get the government we deserve from the effort we put into electing our leaders. That’s only partially true, really; we often still don’t get our money’s worth even when we take the time to learn about the issues, the candidates and the races. But rest assured that the smaller the number of people taking part, the more beholden our elected leaders will be to a select few instead of to the majority.

The races on Tuesday’s primary ballot run the gamut from national office to state and local. They offer some interesting contested races to consider.

Georgians will elect a new U.S. senator this year to replace Saxby Chambliss, who is retiring after two terms. A field of seven Republicans and four Democrats are seeking nominations to meet on the November ballot.

The person chosen to fill his seat could help swing control of the Senate, with the parties in a tight battle to keep or gain the majority. Georgia’s selection may not tilt that balance, but it could be pivotal in a tight fall race.

Beyond that, the new senator will represent the state for six years, into the term of a new president to be elected in 2016. He or she will be able to help set the direction for domestic matters and perhaps fill Chambliss’ role as a point person in foreign policy. And there’s always the chance a few Supreme Court posts will open up, leaving the Senate to determine the court’s direction for decades to come.

Do you want the national health care plan expanded or repealed? Should the rich pay more taxes or should entitlements be cut? How do we deal with the national debt, immigration reform, national security and domestic spying? Your new senator will be at the forefront of all these debates.

Georgia’s 14 House seats are on the ballot as well, many contested in the primary and in the fall, with our incumbent 9th District congressman facing a challenger in both.

At the state level, we will choose a governor from among the incumbent and two Republican challengers, with a lone Democrat awaiting on the fall ballot. The leader of our state will be instrumental in setting a legislative agenda for next year’s session and beyond.

How will Georgia work to keep growing its economy? How will it set education policy to adapt to growth and changing expectations? Where will Georgia find the money to expand clogged highways and ease lengthy commutes? And who will carry the ball in the state’s continued battle over water rights with its neighboring states?

Other constitutional offices are up for a vote as well, and though not all are contested in the primary, it’s not too early to get a feel for the incumbents and challengers in each. One in particular should be a wild affair; no fewer than 15 candidates (nine Republicans, six Democrats) seek to become school superintendent, a crucial post in deciding the direction of our schools.

Also contested is the District 4 seat on the Public Service Commission among three candidates from Northeast Georgia. That board decides many of the state’s utility rates, among other responsibilities.

In local races, two candidates are seeking an open post on the Hall County Board of Commissioners. That five-member panel can swing on the vote of one member, and its tone and priorities have changed as often as its faces. The new commissioner will have a huge impact on deciding how Hall should grow and what should be preserved from development. He or she also will be a swing vote in determining the county’s tax structure, and implementation of a new special purpose sales tax expected to be on the fall ballot.

There also are two posts up on the Hall school board, five Republicans all looking to have a hand in our school growth, budgetary and policy decisions. If you have kids in a county school, or for that matter any stake in Hall’s future, the members of that board should be important to you.

Simply put, the people who are chosen Tuesday, and again in November, will be among a few hundred Americans and Georgians and a dozen or so Hall Countians with the power and influence to defend our nation, educate your children, fill or lighten your bank accounts and make your lives better or worse in myriad ways.

So does your vote matter? There’s one way to find out. If you’re registered, take the time to visit the polls Tuesday and make your choices. If you’re not, there’s still time to do so before the Nov. 4 General Election.

No, we may not always get the government we ask for, but we surely won’t get it if we don’t speak up at the polls when the time comes. And that time comes Tuesday.


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