On Tuesday, exercise your voting privilege

Monday, April 7, 2003

P With important local government offices to be filled and critical spending decisions to be made, it's a shame that so few voters bother to exercise their right to participate in representative government.

On Tuesday, Southeast Missouri voters will head to the polls to decide a number of governmental races and ballot issues.

The question is how many of them will participate. Cape Girardeau County Clerk Rodney Miller said 25 to 40 percent turnout is typical in an April election.

However, there are issues on the ballot that should be of interest to every voter in the area.

There are 43 candidates in contested school board races in Scott, Bollinger, Perry and Cape Girardeau counties. That includes those in the Jackson, Oak Ridge, Delta and Nell Holcomb school districts in Cape Girardeau County alone.

Voters also will select who will serve on their city governments, picking aldermen and trustees.

In Pocahontas, residents will decide whether to sell $500,000 in bonds for the town's first sewer system, likely paying for it with a monthly sewer fee. The mayor and residents say there are lots of problems with septic tanks running off into ditches.

No candidates are filed for some seats, such as for the Gordonville and Millersville fire protection district boards of directors, but the clerk will be looking for write-ins.

And finally, perhaps the issue that will draw the most attention, Cape Girardeau has four tax and fee issues on the ballot. They are: a quarter-cent sales tax for fire department needs, a 2 percent local-use tax on out-of-state purchases above $2,000, a monthly storm-water fee and an extension of a 10-cent property tax.

City officials say the measures would cost about $100 annually per household, and the money will go for operations expenses, equipment needs, expansion and renovation of the police station and a $6.5 million water park to ensure future economic development.

It's sad to think that as few as a quarter of our registered voters may turn out to participate in this democratic process.

It's a process our military men and women are fighting to give Iraq, once is that country is freed from a cruel dictator who held elections in which he received 100 percent of the vote. No doubt his people knew what would happen should another candidate's name appear on a ballot.

In Southeast Missouri, all we have to do is visit our polling place any time from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. We may have to wait a couple minutes if there's a line. We get a sticker at the end proclaiming our participation.

If that's not easy enough, there's absentee voting at county clerks' offices right up until the end of business today.

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