Sunday, November 4, 2007

Voting As A Citizen

With the November elections a few days away, Virginians across the State will be determining some 140 seats in the Virginia General Assembly, as well as many local positions that will impact our daily lives. Too many, this impact goes unnoticed on a daily basis as determined by the trends in voter turnouts across the State in years when there are no Presidential or Congressional seats on the ballot. In fact, many as we all know are talking about an election that is one year away in 2008 and have neglected consideration for the election that is a mere two days away.

It begs a real question. Is it the local elections for Board of Supervisors, School Board, Sheriff and others that impact our reality in terms of quality of life or the national ones? I am not talking taxes people. I am talking about our ability to live our lives and raise our children the way we want in the community atmosphere of our choice.

This question is lost on most voters. Why? It is due in large part in my opinion to the role of media. Access to media sources has never been easier, but when you have three to five major networks solely concentrated on national issues and national politics it is easy to be convinced that some how all of this becomes the reality of which you live. Does the Anna Nicole Smith's and the Paris Hiltons really impact your life? Does the countless hours committed to the ups and down of Hollywood insiders really contribute anything to our daily lives other than brief entertainism (my word). What does it say that about us as citizens when the bulk of the media will conentrate on these things given the fact they are playing the ratings game. Are these things really what citizens want?Sadly the answer may just be yes.

The bigger question is why we as citizens seem do disinterested in the positive elements of society. The stories of the heroism are downplayed with such political slant its appauling. I recall this latest non-issue with many so called news sources regarding a Congressional Medal of Honor awardee. Sadly, because this honor may have been earned on a field of battle on some map somewhere in a conflict that parts of our population do not support the award goes largely unreported reagrding the fallen hero. It was obvious to me that certain networks could not fit the story in between OJ Simpsons recent legal troubles and the continual evilification (my word) of Blackwater. The trickle down effects of the complete partisan posturing of media sources has created and perpuated the movement of focus on things that are not meant to inform but are meant to convince. We are living in a time where it is truly less about news and substantive information as much as it is about politics. Politics not Civics has hijacked the national consciousness. Afterall, politics is nothing more than the art of campaigning. It was never intended to be involved in leading and that distinction gets lost when your twenty four hour news sources are involved in "campaigning" various agendas.

Throughout this election season, we all have observed the candidates involved in the primary process for the right to run in the Presidential election next year and most people are more familiar with those on both sides seeking the nomination than they are whose running their respective local governments. What does that say about us a citizens? Do we really think that Mit Romney or Barrack Obama are going to fix our issues here in Chesterfield? Do we think that they will make sure that our children are educated to the level that are prepared to enter this global economy that our national leaders have determined is the worlds destiny? Are they going to address our potential water quality issue? The answer is no. So why is it that we focus more attention on how well or poorly last week Hillary Clinton did in the debate? Why is it many of us could not get out to the debate Thursday night in Midlothian? Was it because Virginia Tech was playing Boston College on television?

I find it interesting that most people will determine their allegiance in large part to the national debate and let it run down ballot without question. Do local level candidates mirror that of the national ones? It been my contention that they do not. In fact most Democrats in Virginia at the State level would be considered moderate/conservative on balance when compared with those at the Congressional level or those debating for the nomination of the Democratic Party in the primaries.We have to take candidates on an individual basis at the local level and the biggest obstacle to doing that is time.

Time is the greatest resource there is. The problem is many of us simply do not have the "time" to get engaged in local level issues. This is not a criticism per say, but simply a reality that most of us have work, family, and church realated activities going on on a regular basis and what time we do end up with seems to gravitate toward television as the source for both entertainment and information. Informed voting requires committment and that committment requires the time that many of us simply are in short supply of. This is why I believe people feel that national debates are more important than local issues. Solutions or discourse regarding national issues are more readily available in easier formats like cable news and require less of our time. Voting as an informed voter at the local level seems to have been replaced with voting by way of a prayer.

Prayer? Yes. When you cast a vote for a candidate that you are unfamiliar with or are maing a determination based on Party affiliation you are doing just that, praying that person will represent you.

It is my hope that as Citizens, voters will examine the position of the candidates on a full range of issues, as well as character, personal integrity, career performance and basic philosophical, idealogical positions. We must dertermine to consider both the moral and the philosophical realities of the vote we cast as it relates to our community. We must continue in the process even after the vote is cast and we must pledge to deliver the right of voting into the hearts and minds of our children but showing them the VALUE of this right.

As crazy as it can be, Election Day is a Family affair in the that my wife and I take our three children to the polls where they see the process and watch us vote and afterward we traditionally go out for lunch together as a family. The importance of voting is certainly something that is taught by parents. To a large extent if our parents were not voters there is certainly a greater chance that we would not value the voting process as adults and not participate.

It may sound harsh, but in my view it is a CITIZEN that VOTES and it is a RESIDENT that does not. Which are you?


Anonymous said...

Check out the Virginia Video Voter Guide at

Andrea Epps said...

This is an excellent post. You have raised many questions that when answered, just might force positive change to party politics. I think that some local officials mirror the opinions of their state and national counterparts, and some do not. I will eagerly vote for the candidates who demonstrate common sense and integrity; elements that are missing from most state and national officials. I am only one person, but one vote is a powerful thing.
Thanks for the dialouge.

Jody L. Wilcox said...

Although, I tend to disagree with Alter of Freedom more than agree with it, you have hit the nail on the head with this excellent post. I was writing a similar type post on my blog ( but since you have stated the point so succinctly, I will acquiesce to yours. America is truly the greatest country if only everyone would participate it keeping it that way by casting a vote. Never understood not voting in local election and only voting for the President, seems like, in some strange way, a putting the cart before the horse philosophy. Great post

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