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September 9, 2010

What happens if you donít vote?

Amanda Haddaway

Out of all my friends, I think I’m probably in the top 10 percent in terms of political awareness and involvement. Some of my friends vote and some do not, despite my constant lecturing on the importance of it. The realization that I’ve come to is this: they don’t vote because they feel that their lone voice doesn’t make a difference. I’m here to tell you that it does.


With the primary election looming next Tuesday, I’m concerned that low voter turnout will impact the results. This could be good or this could be bad for our community, but it will make a difference.


Although there has been a “vote the bums out,” anti-incumbency trend across the nation, an uninformed electorate, or one that has low voter turnout, tends to favor the well-known incumbents and those with significant name recognition.


If I presented an average citizen with a list of all of the candidates running for Frederick County commissioner this year, it is likely that names like David Gray and Kai Hagen would stick out. By virtue of their positions, these gentlemen have been in the press for several years. Repeatedly seeing a name in the paper and discussed on the radio does eventually sink in with even the most obtuse citizen. The power of name recognition does matter and should not be discredited.


There’s also concern that with low voter turnout, single issue voters will dominate and control the outcome of the election. There are some people in our community who are so passionate about one issue that they will only vote for candidates that agree with their stance on a particular issue. For some this issue is being opposed to the waste-to-energy facility, for others it’s growth. There are likely some parents who will head to the polls solely because of this year’s Board of Education race.


When voters look at only one issue, and solely base their decision to vote for a candidate on that lone issue, they are doing themselves and their community a disservice. Many of these single issues that are hot topics right now will be decided in the next year, so what happens for the remainder of that candidate’s four-year term?


Instead, the more appropriate approach is to look at the candidate in a holistic way. What knowledge, skills and abilities does that candidate have? How will he/she work with fellow elected officials? How responsive will this candidate be to his/her constituents? What is the candidate’s character? Is the candidate a good leader?


It’s very difficult to find a candidate that you agree with on every single issue, but you can find candidates who are thoughtful in their decision-making process and will do what they believe is best for Frederick County.


There are likely to be some shocking results if less than 20 percent of the electorate votes in the primary in Frederick County. Candidates who deserve to make it through to the general election and eventually be elected may be knocked out by small factions of special interest voters.


The only way to combat this is to make sure that you vote on September 14 and urge your friends and neighbors to also head to the polls. We need all voters to voice their opinions in the voting booth so that the very best candidates are chosen by the majority of the voting population.


Remember, your single voice does count.


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