August 26 is a double red-letter day this year. It is the 94th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. As a longtime member of the League of Women Voters, I am grateful to our suffragette sisters who carried on the long fight beginning with the original convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848 and inspired the founding of LWV, also in 1920. Americans should celebrate the extension of the vote to all our citizens.
August 26 is also Primary Election Day in Florida this year. So what, you say? Who cares? Major decisions will be made that will impact our everyday lives, and if you choose not to bother to vote, someone else will make those decisions for you.
What major decisions? How about the three School Board seats that are up this year in Hillsborough County. At least two of the three winning candidates will be new to the board and will help set policy for our children and grandchildren.
Don’t have kids in school? Maybe you care about the economy and would like to have a well-trained workforce to help us grow the economy. For this we need good schools, and the School Board sets the direction for the over 200,000 public school children in Hillsborough County.
Or what about the four circuit court judges and one county court judge who will be elected in Hillsborough? These judges have the heavy responsibility of presiding over issues large and small that affect everyday people in our community and should be chosen with care.
These elections are nonpartisan, which means that every registered voter in Hillsborough County can vote in these races.
Florida is a closed primary state, so only registered Democrats can vote for Democratic candidates and only registered Republicans can vote for Republican candidates. In three races, there is no opponent from the other party for the November general election, which means the winner is decided in the primary. The Republican who gets the most votes — it doesn’t have to be a majority — for State House District 64 and County Commission District 4 will win. The Democrat who gets the most votes for State House District 61 will win. (In each race, there is a write-in candidate who will appear on the ballot in the general election, but a write-in candidate has never won.)
Traditionally, non-presidential election years have lower voter turnout, which means even fewer people are making decisions for all of us. In 2010, only 22 percent voted in the primary! That means for every one person who voted, three to four people let someone else decide.
Look around you — at neighbors, friends, co-workers. Maybe they watch the cable news show you love and agree with, so you’re happy to let them speak for you. But what if they watch the show you hate and disagree with all the time? Do you want them to speak for you?
You still have time to educate yourself on the candidates and cast an informed vote. The deadline to register for the primary is Monday (July 28). Early voting runs from Aug. 14 to 24, and you can sign up to vote by mail until August 20.
Be part of the solution. Get out and vote!
Mickey Castor is the immediate past president of the League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County.