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What You Don’t Know… It Can Hurt Everyone

January 7, 2010

We all run across that person that seems to know everything, not the one that brags about it, but the one that’s just plain smart.  Truth is, they don’t know everything but have a well-rounded general knowledge on most subjects.  They can answer questions like who was the sixteenth President of the United States.  If you were wondering – Abraham Lincoln.

That general knowledge of our history is a rare thing these days.  Knowledge of civics, even current events in civics, is rarer still.  I think most Americans can name the current President, only if you were on Mars for the last year and bit could you not.  The more important question is who represents you in U.S. House of Representatives or who are the Senators from your state?  The knowledge of state a local elected officials is even less.

We really have no right to complain about our poor state of affairs if we cannot be bothered to participate in the process.  For example, I live in Beaufort County, South Carolina.  According to the South Carolina Election Commission, the county has approximately 112,000 residents of voting age.  In the last election, only 90894 residents registered to vote.  Of that number, only 69380 actually voted.  That works out to be 81% registered and 62% voted.  Amazingly, over 21,000 people took the time to register but did not vote.  The election had record high turnouts to boot.  The numbers are even worse for mid-term elections.

Of course, the justification for not voting boils down to apathy, what difference can one vote make after all?  Accepting, for the sake of argument that is true, it is only true at the national level.  One vote for a school board member or county commissioner has a greater effect.  Think about the 21,000 that registered but did not vote.  That is about seven times the highest number of votes any school board member received in the last election.  For two seats fewer than thirty votes made the difference.  That makes every vote of great importance.

American requires “Advanced Citizenship” to work properly at the local level.  We cannot simply leave it to others.  We elect the sheriff, probate judge, treasurer, county council and school board members to name a few.  These people have influence over our lives as well as the lives of our children each and every day.  Yet, few of us even know who they are, much less what they believe in politically, or their vision of the future, or how they spend tax dollars.

Do you know who your local representatives are?  You should because, in this case, what you don’t know can harm you, your family, and the community.  It is up to each of us to create the community we want to live in.  That will never happen if you sit on the sidelines and watch.

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