By Councilman Sheldon Stewart
As a young person, I remember watching my father participate and engage in the political process. I also had neighbors that were actively engaged in elected roles within our local and state government. As a young child, my neighbors and parents would involve me in the political process. I remember hearing that if you want to see change or make a difference, you must vote.
As I have grown over the years and become involved in various areas of our community, I have learned and developed a love and understanding of rights vs. duties. In general, a right is an entitlement and a duty is an obligation. When it comes to voting, my understanding of what some would say is a right is that it really is our duty.
As citizens of this great country, state, county, and city, we have an obligation to vote for people that understand and represent our communities. All too often, as I listen to many in our country, they make the statement that, “I don’t vote because it doesn’t make a difference.” I would counter and state that as you vote, you are fulfilling your duty to make your voice known.
In the last citywide election where three council members were elected, we had participation that was 29.96%, which was a poorer showing than Salt Lake County overall. Total participation for the county was 33.85% or 155,676 ballots were cast out of 459,924 registered voters. If in Riverton alone we were able to increase voter participation by getting an additional 20% participation, or 49% participation, we could influence and drive any race occurring in this next election with exception of perhaps the presidential race. As elected officials, we have done our best to facilitate the ability to vote. Every resident who is registered to vote receives a ballot at their home and the return requires no stamp, as it is pre-paid.
Most people these days have a phone or other device within arm’s reach that can help them research the issues and candidates. Understanding how a candidate’s support or understanding of your concerns and perspectives is critical, and it’s easier than ever before. It’s critical that we all become educated on the candidates and issues prior to casting our votes.
As a final comment in a presidential year, which is when we typically see higher voter turnout, keep in mind that it is your city, county and state representatives that have the most impact and influence on your daily life. It is the officials at the local level that can impact the roads you drive on either physically or digitally to work, the businesses and restaurants in your community, the location of schools, beautification efforts in your community, and so much more.
Remember, the next time you plan to approach an elected official regarding a concern, that the first thing you should do is ask yourself this question, “Did I perform my duty to vote?”