There was a time in Iowa when voting meant trudging through the cold Iowa fall weather to your local polling place. That’s not the case anymore.
Early voting, and eventually electronic voting, presumably from the comfort of you recliner, will be available to all of those registered to cast a ballot.
Still, most people wait until election day to vote. And that will be the case next Tuesday in Guthrie County, as it is in most counties in Iowa. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Where you vote depends on where you live and this year the county is using a color-coded system. There are some townships that are split to different polling sites, so if you’re unsure where to go you can contact the county auditor’s office. The friendly staff will direct you to the correct location.
Two things about elections have always struck me as odd - most people who can vote don’t exercise that right and more people turn out during presidential election years than in other years. The oddity of the latter is that in may locales, the people elected to local boards and commissions can have a greater impact on our lives - and our pocketbooks - than those we elect to occupy that white building in Washington, D.C.
Members of county boards, city councils, school district are our neighbors and friends. Sometime, people who step us to seek office have selfish, parochial interest as their motivation, but that’s rare. Most people who put step up to serve have a genuine interest in bettering our county, cities and schools.
And for some, it’s a real sacrifice beyond the time-consuming nature of holding public office. Their decisions at meetings can be met with as much condemnation from their neighbors as it can praise. And, unlike those in Washington, they don’t get paid a king’s ransom to serve the public. On many boards and councils, these are volunteers.
Yet they’re making important decisions because they’re deciding how much we all have to pay to finance city, county and school operations.
Of course, we have a say in the matter. No public budget can be approved by a 5-member governing body without first conducting a public hearing, allowing the citizenry the right to express themselves about spending proposals, from an annual county budget to buying a school bus. Meetings are open to the public. Citizens’ right to know what their local government is doing is protected by law. It’s a process that encourages engagement from the bill-paying public while ensuring accountability from those charged with making a decision.
Based on figures provided by the state of Iowa, most people in Guthrie County take the election process seriously. Of the slightly fewer than 11,000 residents of the county, nearly 74 percent are registered voters. That’s commendable, and unusual.
And our vote might be the only thing that holds equal value for all. No matter your social or financial status, your vote holds no more power - and no less - than anyone else’s vote.
The vote of the limo driver who takes the richest guy in town to the polling site holds the same value as the vote of the richest guy in town.
Everybody’s vote counts the same. And, though rare, someone’s decision to not vote, while that’s their right, impacts the outcome of an election. Some argue that those who don’t vote shouldn’t have any say in the process afterward. That’s nonsense, the two aren’t interconnected. If you’re a taxpayer, you have a right to have a say in the process whether you voted or not. After all, it’s your money they’re spending.
But who is elected to public office - especially local governing bodies - can have a profound impact on our communities for years.
Should everyone who is eligible and able to vote exercise that right? I think so, but that’s a personal decision.
Still, does everyone’s vote matter? Of course it does.