By Keziah Washington
Today’s youth have a major responsibility that is being ignored and taken for granted: voting. Many people today are not taking the time to watch the news or figure out who is representing them. With all of the technology available lately, being informed about the society we live in is even easier than ever. Knowing this, the fact that we, as American citizens, don’t care enough to put in the small amount of effort needed to check voting polls and listen to the people who represent us is simply sad and very unacceptable.
Though it may not seem like it, voting affects everyone, no matter what. Wouldn’t you like to have a say in the laws that you have to follow or the decisions made about problems in the community we live in? These things can change your life in as little as a second and it doesn’t matter if you like it or not because, by not voting, you are preventing yourself from having a say in how you live. No one wants all of their decisions made for them without being able to give reasonable insight to those making the rules for them.
When was the last time you watched the news? For many people, the answer to this question will be “I don’t remember” or “It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to pay attention to the news.” This is a huge problem in society today. The feeling of wanting to be involved and informed has withered away. Some find the news to be pointless, sitting only for a few moments and being the most unentertained they have ever been. Others simply think the world is too cruel and don’t want to sit through news about the sad things happening around them. These reasons are common in everyone around us, but they still are no valid reason to remain uninformed.
As I stated, today’s technology offers multiple ways of staying connected and informed. Even so, we still choose to stay disconnected with our representatives and political issues. What is the reason for this? Could it be as simple an answer as laziness? Maybe. There has been a decline in voter participation* and it needs to be resolved. We aren’t benefiting from sitting at home. We have to go out and put in the effort to make a difference in our everyday lives.
If we do not make an effort to vote, we will eventually lose our voice completely. This can be prevented if we, as US citizens, take the time to get informed and care about what happens in politics. Teens are the main source of this change since they will be the ones who are voting for what happens in the future. Knowing this, teens need to become more consistent in watching the news and paying attention to the people who represent us. If teenagers take the time to do this, it would make a huge difference.
*For data related to civic health and voter participation, visit Spartanburg Community Indicators Project’s Civic Health web page.
By Linda Powers Bilanchone,
Past-President, League of Women Voters of Spartanburg County
On Saturday, May 11, from 8:30 am to noon, the League of Women Voters of Spartanburg County is offering a free workshop on how to run for an elected office or get appointed to an appointed office. The workshop, “Ready..Set...RUN!!!” will take place at the downtown campus of Spartanburg Community College, 220 East Kennedy Street, Spartanburg; it is non-partisan and open to the public.
Democracy is about the people’s choice. Elections are about the people’s choice. But how can the people choose if there is only one candidate for an office?
When you think of the League of Women Voters, you probably think of members finding a variety of ways to get people registered to vote and then another effort to get them out to vote on election day. Yes, that is what we do year in and year out. However, registering and voting is only meaningful when the voter has a choice! And, of course, the choice comes when two or more candidates offer for the same office. Then the voter has a choice!
If we are to honor the notion of choice, then we must find more candidates to run for office. So, another way to make democracy work is to urge citizens to consider running for office – local, state and national. People choose from a variety of ways to be of service to their community. One very significant way that is often overlooked is running for public office. I say running for public office because that is the only way you can win! And even if you don’t win, you have given the voting public a choice and that is very, very important. And, you might find that it is an enjoyable way to be of service. The truth is that you don’t always have to run for office; you can be appointed and for many future elected officials, being an appointed official is the way they get started. The City of Spartanburg has a number of boards and commissions to which you can be appointed; the County of Spartanburg also has boards and commissions to which you can be appointed --- and they deal with a variety of different subjects --- human relations, building regulations, historic preservation. You name it! I bet you can find something you would enjoy doing. You can go to the city’s website or the county’s website to see what might be available. And, by available, I mean that you will find that not all seats on every board are filled; the City Council or County Council has not been able to find anyone to fill that position. Maybe it could be you. It might be just as simple as letting your City Council representative or County Council representative know that you would like to serve.
Now, running for an elected position is admittedly a bigger commitment. You will probably have to raise some money and put together a team to help you educate the voters in your district about who you are and what you intend to do as an elected official. But that doesn’t need to be extensive or expensive – especially in a local race – and it is entirely within the range of possibility. In fact, it can be enjoyable. If you enjoy talking to your neighbors and friends, you will probably enjoy campaigning – especially, if you can find a good and trusted friend who will “run” the campaign for you leaving you free to interact with potential voters.
Furthermore, being in appointed or elected office is a continuing education for you. You have an opportunity to learn about the subject matter that your board handles; you learn about how the local government works; you might even get interested enough to run for a higher office! Of course, with most boards and commissions, there is no salary for those who serve, but sometimes there are trips to other places to learn new ways of doing things or a small expense stipend. And, surprisingly, there are salaries in some cases --- City of Spartanburg Commission of Public Works and the Spartanburg Sanitary Sewer District board are examples of boards with salaries; school boards are an example of boards without salaries.
The League’s workshop on May 11 includes a presentation on opportunities for appointment and how to run for office as well as a keynote address by Hope Blackley of Congressman Timmons’ office. Come on out; this is an opportunity for you to help give people a choice in our elections!
This FREE workshop is non-partisan and open to the public, but to be sure necessary materials are on hand for you please register at EventBrite.
On November 11, 2016, a fountain at Spartanburg Water in downtown Spartanburg, SC, was dedicated to long-time LWVS member Linda Powers Bilanchone to commemorate her 24 years of service as a Commissioner of Public Works. She shared the thoughts below on that occasion.
Women Hold Up Half the Sky
An old Chinese proverb asserts that women hold up half the sky and that truth has motivated women around the world to tackle the struggle to claim their place in decision-making and leadership. American women have struggled to be represented in the chambers and halls and small, undistinguished meeting rooms where governance decisions are made and our community’s future is decided. For Spartanburg women, that began with the Spartanburg Women’s Political Caucus in the 1980s. We met and plotted and planned and ASKED women to run for office. Sewer Commissioner Barbara Barnes and I met in the Caucus. Then in the 1990s, there were the Daughters of Susan B. Anthony who met and celebrated the success of elected and appointed women.
Some of us took the quest statewide by establishing and serving as leaders of the South Carolina Advocates for Women on Boards and Commissions. I have two strong memories of those years.