From the desk of Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling:
So, do you know who is on your ballot for the upcoming election? If that question takes you by surprise, please allow this commentary to be your wake-up call on this important issue.
While thankfully we don’t have never-ending elections like we did a couple of years ago, 2014 is an election year, meaning in Wisconsin we have both spring and fall elections. The election on Tuesday, April 1, is our annual Spring Nonpartisan General Election.
Rather than a being a yawner, this should be one of the most important elections each year. This is the election when we elect to office those whose decisions most directly affect our individual and family lives. On Tuesday, April 1, citizens across this state will be voting for such offices as city mayors, city council members, county board supervisors, town and village board members, and school board members. Some areas will see contested municipal judge races and a few will have contested circuit court judge races.
When we have big elections such as the one coming this November when we will be electing a governor and lieutenant governor, all of our state assembly, half of our state senate, a new attorney general and all of our congressional delegation, many people get at least a little interested and involved. Sad to say, it’s way too often a different story for these spring local elections.
But consider the decisions these local officials make. They determine the assessed value of your home and property which figures into how much you pay in property tax. They determine what you can and cannot do with your property. They determine when and how roads will be built and maintained. They make decisions about curriculum in your local public schools, about what surveys will be administered, and how much school employees will be paid—using your tax dollars. They set the rules for whether or not sexually oriented businesses can move into your community and how many liquor licenses will be issued. They’re the ones who establish contracts with organizations such as Planned Parenthood. They hire the people who make up police and fire departments in your community and those who make sure the water is safe to drink.
That’s an incomplete list, to be sure. But I hope it gives you the proof you need so you understand that truly local government is the level of government that most directly impacts you and your family—every day in a multitude of ways.
The election on Tuesday, April 1 is important. In these elections, we’re often voting for people we know. On the ballot in my community are 3 people from my church. In local elections we frequently vote for friends, acquaintances, fellow church members, family members, neighbors. This should be the most important, not the least important election for us.
To find out what races and candidates will be on your ballot on Tuesday, April 1, you can either call your municipal clerk or visit myvote.wi.gov online. Both sources will give you the information you need. Many local newspapers also print the ballots the Thursday or Friday before the Tuesday election.
Once you know who is on your ballot, you need to make sure you find out what they stand for. It’s not too late to do that. It’s not too late until the polls close on Tuesday, April 1—which, by the way, is 8 p.m. statewide.
You can learn about the candidates by calling them directly—at home—because most don’t have offices for local elections. Ask them questions about why they are running, ask about issues you are concerned about, find out about their view of government, their background. Most local candidates today have websites. Check them out. Read the newspaper. Listen to the radio. Watch your local cable channel. Go to forums. Read literature they may be mailed or dropped off at your house. Call friends whom you trust and who you know are following local politics. The bottom line is it’s up to us as citizens to get educated on the candidates so we can vote our values.
Do yourself, your family and your community a favor. Get Tuesday, April 1 plugged into your electronic calendar. Circle it on your refrigerator calendar. Call friends and family members and make sure they, too, are ready to vote on Tuesday, April 1—and to truly vote their values by voting for people who will represent them well right in their own communities. Ignorance is no excuse. Let’s all be the Christian citizen and example we should be.