Remember, on Tuesday you're boss

Monday, November 2, 1998

BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

On Tuesday, Bruce Taylor wants your business. To serve customers better, he has outlets within easy walking distance. They'll open early and close late.

And just for showing up you'll receive a free sticker: "I voted today."

Bruce is the director of Hamilton County's Board of Elections. Like his counterparts in Butler, Clermont, Warren, Campbell, Kenton Boone and Dearborn counties, he hopes this year's election will draw lots and lots of voters.

"We get disappointed when nobody shows," he told me. "We'd rather be busy."

But Bruce, like most board of elections veterans, is also a realist. He knows that ewer than the 568,000 registered voters in his county will make the effort.

"My bones tell me there'll be a 50 percent turnout," he predicted. "The turnout for the last gubernatorial election in 1994 was 56 percent. We'll be right around that number again. That's pretty good compared with what I hear from the rest of the country and the area."

I'm an idealist. Fifty percent sounds pretty lousy.

Everyone who's able should vote. Thousands of Americans fought and died so future generations would still have the right. The least we can do is get off our duffs, stroll to a polling place and mark up a ballot.

Voting is fun. You get to stick up for your favorite candidate or stick it to the jerk whose politics and TV campaign ads have irritated you the most. And, of course, when you vote in Ohio you get one of those nice red, white and blue "I voted today" stickers.

"The most-asked question we hear is: "Where do I vote,' " Bruce Taylor said. "The second-most-asked question is: "Will I get a sticker?' "

Voters elsewhere

For Tuesday's midterm election, pollsters predict a national turnout of 38 percent.

That means for every four registered voters who go to the polls, six stay home. That stinks in a country where people think they invented free elections.

Eighty-two percent of Germany's voters turned out for that country's recent election.

In Australia, you can be fined for not voting. The turnout rate there is 90 percent. Fail to vote, and the government sends a note asking why.

The worst part is that, by not voting, you fail to participate in the lifeblood of your community. Amid all the repetitive ads and blustery politicians, elections are really important. Your vote can have real impact on daily life, for you and your neighbors.

Butler County needs new classrooms and another high school to handle a booming population. Voters will decide whether they get built.

In Warren County, if you don't vote, you won't have a say in widening roads, repairing school roofs, replacing a high school running track, buying school buses, hiring teachers or laying them off. In Batavia, the fire department needs a new ambulance and wants to hire more firefighters. Voters get to decide whether that purchase and those hirings happen.

Cleves' village government could be put out of business.

Lincoln Heights' might give the mayor a raise.

Deer Park and Silverton could create a joint fire district. In Northern Kentucky, Crescent Park might merge with Fort Mitchell. Villa Hills wants to build parks and playgrounds.

In all these places -- in every city, every township, county and state -- decisions are made at the ballot box by people like you and me. We are in charge.

In Cincinnati, the hottest race is probably the stadium issue. Hamilton County's Issue 11 boils down to a choice over where the new Reds stadium should go, Broadway Commons or the riverfront.

No matter how the stadium vote goes, no matter how any of these votes go, the outcome delivers an important reminder to our elected officials. They are our employees; our taxes pay their salaries. They get their orders through the ballot box.

But only if you vote.

Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.

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