If you don’t vote, keep your mouth shut

11/13/2013, noon

During the last NBA playoffs, won by our own Miami Heat, there was an effective commercial that summarized the essential point of the game — “Win or go home!” One could be equally creative in assessing the mediocre number of voters that bothered to go to the polls in last week’s election with the phrase “Vote or keep your mouth shut!”

Maybe we’re being too blunt for some but the harsh reality is that while presidential elections are more glamorous and more publicized, it’s local elections that really impact how we live, determine the services we receive and the kinds of money, jobs and other life-sustaining opportunities that flow into our communities. School board members, city and county commissioners and state representatives are our voice for all things pertinent to our neighborhoods. But we already know that, don’t we?

When we were children in junior high school, we were required to take a course in civics that helped us understand the differences between the three branches of government. We also learned about the history of voting rights in the U.S. and realized that it was only recently that both women and Blacks were allowed to vote. We further learned that the right to vote was not handed to us on a silver platter. Instead, it came with protest, imprisonment and even death.

Yet, we continue to act like voting is something we do if we have time in our busy schedules instead of seeing it for what it is — an act that every citizen should feel compelled to achieve — a moral obligation.

Consider that out of 40,513 registered voters who could have voted for District 5 city commissioner, only 6,525 exercised their rights — or about 16 percent of the electorate. That means 84 percent of us don’t get a flying leap about what happens to ourselves, our children, our families and our friends. So, when the ‘stuff’ hits the fan, what should those non-voters do? Since they left their “game” at home, the best answer would be for them to not bother complaining and just keep their mouths shut.