Educate Yourself Before Voting
Don't cast a ballot if you have no idea what you are voting to do.
Ray Newman wrote an excellent article (Dacula Patch Tuesday, June 30, 2011) stating it was his observation that an informed public was a happy public. Patrick Malone commented on Ray’s article that government has a responsibility to inform its citizens but citizens have a responsibility to be informed. AMEN, AMEN, & AMEN! Both are absolutely correct. Government has a responsibility to keep its citizens informed. However, since the power of government is vested in “We the people,” the citizens have a responsibility to keep ourselves informed whether it is on the candidates or on the issues.
Patrick, Ray, and I are what you might call compatriots. Both are fine men. We frequently venture out into the political arena to weigh in on political issues we are passionate about. Prior to moving to Union County, Patrick was a resident of Gwinnett County. I tell him that if the truth was known, the reason he moved to Union County was to get as far away from me as he could without leaving Georgia.
To set the stage for it is our responsibility to keep ourselves duly informed, let me take you back to 2008 and share with you an issue that Patrick and I were heavily involved in to let you know how being uninformed can affect the political process at the ballot box. On the November 4, 2008, there was a statewide initiative on the ballot which called for amending the Constitution of Georgia so as to allow local school boards to use tax funds for community purposes and programs. Translated, this meant that tax revenues which should go to public schools could be used in a Tax Allocation District (TAD) or what is now called a Community Improvement District if a local school board made the decision to participate.
When a Tax Allocation District is approved by a city or county, the value of the properties within a TAD is fixed at their present assessment for property tax revenue purposes. The growth in value of properties within a TAD is then diverted to the developer for the purpose of paying off any city county bonds issued for infrastructure improvements over the life cycle of the bonds which is usually 25 to 30 years. This would mean that the incremental increase in property tax revenues which should go to public education would be deferred to the developer until the end of the bond cycle.
Patrick and I fought this issue tooth and nail. Our theme was SchoolTaxesR4School Children. We did our absolute best to inform our fellow citizens throughout Georgia. Although we were up against a powerful juggernaut, we came close in our efforts to defeating this initiative. However, close does not count in anything but horseshoes and hand grenades. The statewide vote was 51 percent FOR and 49 percent AGAINST.
How does this statewide initiative lay down with citizens’ keeping themselves duly informed? That is a fair question and one which deserves an answer. Here is my answer. In November 2008, as I was walking out of my polling place, a man whom I knew was leaving at the same time. He walked over to exchange pleasantries. He pulled out the copy of his sample ballot and begin to discuss the proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. When he pointed out the amendment which would change the Constitution of Georgia to allow local school boards to participate in Tax Allocation Districts his rationale for voting in favor of the amendment left a lot to be desired. He stated that he had no idea what he was voting for but since it appeared to be about schools he voted YES.
When you are standing in line to vote is not the time to become duly informed. Well in advance of early voting or on Election Day we should all know everything there is to know about the candidates and any issues on the ballot such as proposed constitutional amendments.
The way I see it, since the power of government is vested in “We the people,” we have a moral responsibility to keep ourselves duly informed.