Power Of The Ballot Box

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For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to the local political scene, we’d like to inform you that there’s an election next month. No less than 31 public offices will be up for grabs on Rockbridge area ballots, including two seats in the Virginia General Assembly, in elections on Nov. 5.

Those who haven’t registered to vote have less than a week to do so. The deadline is next Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 5 p.m. There are three ways to register – filling out an application at your local voting registrar’s office, doing so at the local Division of Motor Vehicles office or doing it online at www.elections.virginia.gov.

It may seem like a worn-out cliché to suggest every vote can make a difference but it’s absolutely true, especially in this year’s elections. Four of the local races didn’t have any candidates qualify to get their names on the ballot. That means write-in votes will determine the outcome of elections for Glasgow mayor, Natural Bridge’s member of the Rock-bridge County School Board and Lexington’s two members on the Natural Bridge Soil & Water Conservation District Board. One vote could well be the difference between who wins and who loses.

For representative democracy to work, voter participation is required. This year’s elections are considered off-year because we’re not electing a president. Unfortunately, too many people may decide to sit this one out. In last year’s elections – also in an off-year – 63.9 percent of registered voters cast ballots in Rockbridge County, 53.3 percent in Lexington and 44.8 percent in Buena Vista. These numbers are typically above 70 percent in a presidential election year.

It’s a shame that the numbers aren’t higher. The stakes are high – even at the local level. Most people would like to have a say in how their local property taxes are being spent. Plans to remove unstaffed Dumpsters in the county, downtown revitalization in Buena Vista and sprucing up unkempt properties in Glasgow are among the issues folks are talking about. If you don’t vote, don’t complain about how your elected representatives handle these issues.

As a service to our readers, The News-Gazette is running profiles of all of the candidates for local office in this year’s elections. The profiles started last week and will continue through the end of the month, the week before the Nov. 5 elections. Another way to become informed about the candidates is to attend one or more of the upcoming forums.

The Effinger Ruritan Club is sponsoring a candidates forum on Thursday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m., at the Palmer Community Center. The local chamber of commerce is sponsoring two forums – one at the Hampton Inn Col Alto on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 6 p.m., and one at Parry McCluer Middle School on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 6 p.m.

Encouragingly, Rockbridge area voting registrars are seeing an uptick in local residents registering to vote. “We’re getting a lot of activity,” said Rockbridge County registrar Sheila Hall this week. In addition to new voter registrations, she’s seeing a lot of absentee ballots being cast already by college students.

Emilie Staton, Buena Vista’s registrar, said she’s registered 100 new voters in the past two months. Jan Yowell, Lexington’s registrar, said she’s seeing a “fair number” of new registrations that have exactly offset the number of registered voters who have moved from the city. Yowell said the number of absentee ballots that have been cast in Lexington – 83, as of Tuesday morning – “is high for this time,” four weeks before Election Day.

The power of the ballot box is how we can have a say in public policy. We encourage everyone to exercise this power. If you haven’t registered to vote, there’s still time.

The News-Gazette

The News-Gazette Corp.
P.O. Box 1153
Lexington, VA 24450
(540) 463-3113

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