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In Wake County, so Many Quality-of-Life Reasons to Vote

This article originally appeared in the News and Observer.

By Marian Lewin and Karen Rindge

In a political environment fraught with partisan divisions, it might feel easier to pass up the chance to vote. Think, however, about your daily life: your commute to work, the school your child attends, the water you drink, the park you walk or run in for exercise.

All of these things are affected by decisions of our county and state elected officials. Do you want them making key decisions without your views represented?

The next Wake County Board of Commissioners and N.C. General Assembly will choose how to fund public education, whether to advance public transit in Wake County, whether to proceed with cleanup plans for our polluted reservoirs Jordan and Falls lakes and how to plan for accommodating our growing population. Leadership matters.

Some good news is that North Carolina residents are responding to the call for civic engagement by registering to vote. According to the State Board of Elections, about 90 percent of eligible voters have registered. The political group reaping the greatest gains? Unaffiliated. Many new voters no longer identify with the principles and policies of the mainstream parties and are looking to express their independence. The best way to express your values is to vote for who you believe will represent your views and concerns.

Voters look to nonpartisan groups to help them learn about the candidates and the issues. The League of Women Voters of Wake County has joined with nonprofit groups such as WakeUP Wake County and Delta Theta Sigma for many years to offer candidate forums for voters to meet and question candidates.

As nonpartisan organizations, we cannot tell people whom to vote for, nor can we endorse candidates or give them money. We hold forums to encourage voters to get informed before they vote.

When candidates decline to participate in these nonpartisan forums, as some have this year, democracy suffers. People want to hear from their elected officials before they cast their votes. They want to understand how candidates would address issues of concern to them. When elected officials choose to listen only to their supporters and avoid people who might not agree with them, citizens and the whole civic community lose.

Elections matter. Elected officials make significant choices that affect our daily lives. Local and state officials make decisions that affect how we plan for the rapidly growing community we call home. They will decide matters affecting our pocketbooks, transportation choices, natural resources and public schools.

The increase in voter registration is encouraging. Citizens are motivated and want to have their voices heard. We keep our strong, healthy communities by fixing things that aren’t working. This process requires that citizens engage in the public dialogue with candidates and make their voices heard by going to the polls.

Marian Lewin is chairman of the League of Women Voters of Wake County. Karen Rindge is executive director of WakeUP Wake County.