Coast Lines - April 2015
by Ellis Anderson
- Announcing a new online voters' information website/candidates' forum for Hancock County. The goal? Reviving voters' feelings of empowerment - and excitement!
But on the ballot, beneath the names of Ford and Carter, were rows of other names, dozens of people I’d never heard of before, running for offices I didn’t know existed. What the heck was a County Commissioner? What did they do? What district was I in? And what did it matter anyway?
Sure, I could get all fired up about a big issue, like ending the war in Vietnam (and I wore a black arm band one day in 7th grade to prove it), but I’d never been to a city council meeting, never written a letter to a state legislator, never called the office of a mayor. My daddy did things like that all the time, but it seemed like fringy crack-pot behavior rather than good citizenship. I believed my dad was wasting his time. Other than fixing potholes, what power did local officials really have?
Turns out a lot. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I realized most of the decisions that impacted my life on a daily basis were made by local or state officials, not national ones.
And my vote could actually throw its weight around in local elections. In smaller communities, just a single vote can sometimes decide an election.
Remember the Waveland Aldermen's election last year? Charles Piazza was one vote shy of a majority and won his alderman’s seat by drawing the long straw. He may be the only elected official in history to have twice had his election determined by a game of chance. In 2002, after another tie vote, Piazza lost the election by the toss of a coin.
But even though we understand that our local votes have serious impact, only 28.9% of eligible Mississippians voted in the 2014 mid-term elections (Maine had the highest turnout in the country with 58%). Two-thirds of us stayed home.
Is there a way to change that? We're not sure, but Cleaver volunteers are going to try. In June, we'll be launching an online candidates’ forum and voter information site for Hancock County. The website is named “Serve Hancock,” because in the best of all worlds, serving citizens is the mission of good government.
You can preview the home page of Serve Hancock now - the rest of the site is slated for completion sometime in June.
The Cleaver is creating this one-stop-shop to make voting easy, interesting and, maybe even exciting again. While we won't be endorsing candidates, here's what the site will offer:
Will Serve Hancock change the way we pick our candidates? For some. Can it foster better government? We'll see. Will it become a valuable community tool? Hopefully. Someday.
But this year, if "Serve Hancock" helps even a few people recapture the excitement and sense of awe they experienced the first time they voted, we'll consider the effort worthwhile.
Please use the form below to send us any ideas/suggestions you have for Serve Hancock. We’d love to hear your thoughts - and hopefully encouragement!
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