By Glen Tilot and Jim Morrison

 

In a little over four weeks, you and other Northeastern Wisconsin residents will have an opportunity to make a difference in our community. You can do so by going to the polls and voting.

In many ways it’s such a simple act. Take a few minutes out of your busy schedule – on your way to work, on your way home or during some other free time – and stop at your neighborhood polling place.

But in other ways it’s such a significant act, an act that makes a strong statement about our country and our community. It’s one way all of us can say, “This is a great place to live, but we can make it even better.”

The local and state elections coming up April 4 may not draw the media attention of a presidential election or even the statewide races that will be on the ballot in the fall. That fact does not diminish the importance of voting in the spring election.

Our representatives elected April 4 will have a major impact on our pocketbooks as well as on our community’s character and quality of life. We see the effects of their decisions day-in and day-out – from the delivery of essential public services to the quality of our schools to our community’s reputation near and far.

One of the nice things about local representatives – members of the county board, city councils, village and town boards, and school boards – is their high level of accountability. Many are our friends and neighbors. We see them and can share our opinions with them at the grocery store, the mall and school events. But the opinions we express come with much greater credibility and substance if we actually voted.

We tip our hats to those members of our community who made an extra commitment by running for office. They have decided to give something back through involvement in the political process and public service. We encourage them to run clean campaigns based on ideas and their visions for the community’s future.

Our organization, Project VOTE (Voice of the Electorate), exists solely for the purpose of increasing voter turnout and awareness in Brown County.  Our nonpartisan group of volunteers sponsors candidate forums and puts up yard signs encouraging people to vote. Watch for our latest public service announcement in which Green Bay Packers President Bob Harlan talks about the value of voting.

One of our favorite activities is the Project VOTE Voter Challenge, a competition among Brown County municipalities for the highest voter turnout. The winner (Hobart is the defending champion) receives a trophy and public recognition. We’ll be the first to acknowledge that we started the Voter Challenge in 2004 to inject a little fun into the elections. But anything that gets people talking about the importance of voting is serious business, and the winner of the trophy has good reason to be proud of its achievement.

Prior to April 4, you have plenty to do to make sure you are fully informed and able to make sound choices when you go to the polls. Visit the Project VOTE Web site at www.project-vote.org for important information about where and how to vote. With links to other election-related Web sites, it provides “one-stop shopping” for information about voting. We also encourage you to attend candidate forums, read the Press-Gazette and other local newspaper coverage of the campaigns and pay attention to radio, TV and Internet sources of campaign information.

Then let’s set an example of citizens who care deeply about our vital role in the democratic process and understand how participation in that process makes ours a stronger community. Your vote is your voice. Let your voice be heard April 4.

(Glen Tilot and Jim Morrison are co-chairmen of Project VOTE.)