The campaign season is winding down. In just over a week, voters will go to the polls (some have already been, thanks to early voting) and winners and losers will be declared. Voters will be able to go home, turn on the the television and watch commercials about Charmin or a local car dealership again, instead of being subjected to repeated 30-second shots of negative campaigning.
Regardless of who you vote for in any of the races, I do hope you’ll vote. Turnout tends to be higher in presidential election years like this one than in other years. That stands to reason, of course, because we’re electing someone to the highest office in the land.
But I would argue that, while all those races are important, the more local the race, the more important it is. These are the people who really impact your daily lives. State representatives and senators are more likely to pass a law that dramatically affects your pocketbook than a governor or a U.S. Senator. There are people running for election to the school board and the county commission. They are even more likely to make decisions that really impact you.
Those races are important. At the end of this year’s ballot is a race that doesn’t even really involve candidates. Voters will be asked to approve or reject a referendum that adds half a cent to the sales tax to help pay for a mass transit system in Wake County. That’s going to impact you every time you go to the convenience store, the grocery store, the clothing store, the computer store. Everywhere.
You may think that mass transit isn’t really for you. You have a vehicle that gets you to work and home again. You don’t need a bus or a train. But the truth is, while you may not make use of it, some people will. Probably, lots of people will. And when they do, that’ll mean their vehicle isn’t on the road with you. That means fewer cars on the road and fewer traffic jams (or at least smaller traffic jams) for you to contend with.
Twice in recent weeks, I’ve been late to appointments because I didn’t anticipate the traffic jams that held me up on the Knightdale Bypass, 440, New Hope and Jones Sausage Roads. Twice, in recent weeks, I’ve sat in my truck fuming at my situation because there are simply more people on the roads than our roads are designed to handle. I suspect many readers of this column who travel to places like Raleigh and beyond on a more regular basis than I do have found themselves in a similar predicament more often than I have.
Hopefully, they will see the wisdom of a plan that gets some of that traffic off our roadways. Hopefully, you will too.
But what you won’t see are a lot of campaign commercials about the transit referendum. You won’t see people on the nightly news chanting slogans for or against the proposal. There are, to be sure, supporters and opponents of the referendum. But both sides have been civil and they’ve put their cases forward for you to judge.
Perhaps it’s not top of mind for you because it lacks the sound-bite mentality that leaves images and four-word clips bouncing around in your head.
But it’s incredibly important for you, even if it’s not incredibly important to you. Like most local initiatives or local candidates, the impact on every one of us is higher because it’s a local question.
When I was in high school, I took a civics class with Reginald Hayes, out at East Wake. He was a crusty old curmudgeon of a man, but I think he was purposeful when he argued that lowering the voting age to 18 was a mistake. “None of you will actually go vote,” Papa Hayes told us. His words resonated with me and I determined, then and there, to prove him wrong.
Not everyone had a Papa Hayes in their life who would challenge them to exercise their civic responsibility, but whatever your motivation, and whomever and whatever you vote for or against, the primary goal should be that you go vote. Have your say, however small a part of that equation your voice is.