Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Spring election hurtling toward us; are you informed?

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Greg Peck
Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The first Tuesday in April comes early this year. It falls on April 1, meaning we're less than two weeks away from the annual spring elections. Are you prepared to vote? Do you know who the candidates are and if there's a referendum in your school district?

It's not too late to get informed. The Gazette is returning to a special section this election cycle. That will be included in the Wednesday, March 26, Gazette, and it will include details about all the area offices in which two or more candidates are running, along with area referendums. The special section also will be available online.

Why should you care about the spring elections? The Janesville League of Women Voters has put out a short video that explains it well.

The video suggests we're experiencing a frightening trend in the erosion of eligible voters going to the polls. A woman says she votes for president, “Isn't that enough?”

Truth is, in presidential races, your vote doesn't carry nearly the same weight. Every vote counts in local elections, which can be decided by a handful or even a single vote.

As the video explains, local politics can have huge influence on your lives. These are the elected leaders who can decide where you live, where you can ride your bike, and where you can take your dog. They make rules about the county fair, new businesses and snowplowing.

“Remember, the more local, the more impact on you,” the video concludes.

It's sad to think that 50 percent or more area voters go to the polls in a presidential election but that Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler is projecting turnout for these spring elections at between 16 percent and 19 percent. Worse, she's leaning toward the lower end of that paltry range. Weather, she notes, can play a big role in the turnout.

In Janesville, five candidates are seeking three seats on the school board. Four candidates are seeking three seats on the Janesville City Council.

The Gazette already covered candidate forums, but videotapes of these are available at JATV and on YouTube. The League of Women Voters also has a video of the school board candidates forum.

Perhaps the biggest school referendums are in Orfordville's Parkview District. Parkview's referendum is in two parts. The biggest part asks voters for $17 million to swap the schools in Orfordville and renovate and add on, essentially creating a new junior high/high school at the current elementary school and a renovated elementary school out of the existing junior high/high school. The primary school in Footville would close. A second question seeks $350,000 each year for the next three years to pay for operating expenses that include technology and curriculum materials, classroom materials, professional development training and special education costs.

By the way, the deadline for letters to the editor related to the April 1 election will be at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 26. All letters must be received in The Gazette's office by that time to assure publication. The word limit is 250, and writers must include their full address and phone number.

As usual, The Gazette will cover developing election-related stories as they occur in the days leading up to April 1. Take the time to learn about the issues and candidates. And remember, every vote counts in these local elections.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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