Don’t give up on political process

So, you are sick of politics.

You are tired of the ugliness on social media and angry about the failure of politicians to address important issues. Maybe you have stopped paying attention to who is running and just vote a straight ticket. Maybe you have registered with no party affiliation. Maybe you only vote in some elections, or just vote in the races at the top of the ballot, or maybe you are not even registered to vote.

Just how bad is voter apathy? Two years ago, the Tampa Bay Times reported that about one in four Floridians who are eligible to vote are not registered. In Lake County, only 78% of our registered voters voted in 2016, and even fewer— only 66.5%— voted in 2018. In 2016, over 40,000 of those who cast a ballot skipped voting in the Lake County School Board races.

How many voters fail to do their homework and just vote a straight ticket, for either all Democrats or all Republicans? A close look at the four Lake County Water Authority races in 2018, each of which was a county-wide race, is telling.

The four Republican candidates reported spending no money on their campaigns and apparently never appeared at public forums to explain their views on water conservation.

On the other hand, three of the four Democratic candidates spent money on signs and/or mailers, and all four appeared at numerous public forums.

Because the campaign activities, education, work experience, and public service record of all eight candidates varied widely, one would expect the election outcomes to vary widely also. However, disregarding a few votes received by a non-party candidate, all four Republican candidates won with about 60% of the vote.

How does that figure compare with party affiliation? If you add together the number of Democrats and Republicans who voted in the election, 61.8% were Republicans. Apparently, most voters in Lake County vote the party and do not spend time learning about the candidates.

One of the most disturbing trends in voter apathy is the surge in NPA (no party affiliation) voters. Since 2008, the number of NPA voters in Lake County has more than doubled— increasing from 29,357 to over 61,000. In February of this year, more people registered as NPA than any other party. Sadly, the turnout rate for NPA voters is low— just 52.7% in Lake County’s last election.

NPA voters are usually barred from voting in party primaries, and they have no spokesperson, no political platform, and no political party fighting for them.

Our two-party system is not perfect, but it can be an effective tool for educating voters and advocating on the issues. Failing to belong to a major political party is a lazy choice— much easier than doing some research. If you do not know which party aligns most with your views, please read the 2016 national platform of each party. (See ) If you believe in affordable health care, living wages, strong public schools, and a clean and safe environment, you should register as a Democrat.

In Lake County, all of our senators and representatives in Congress and in the Florida Legislature, and all of our county commissioners and constitutional officers (sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, and clerk of court) are Republican. That is true, even though only 44% of our registered voters are Republican. None of these officials are African American. If more citizens were more engaged in the election process, that power imbalance might change.

Someone once said that politics is the art of dividing up resources. If you are apathetic about voting, you are allowing someone else to decide how much freedom, power, and wealth belong to you. So, please do not give up on politics. Be an informed voter. Join the party that shares your values. Vote in every election, vote the entire ballot, and vote for the best candidates.


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