If we've learned anything this year in areas of politics – it's that INFORMED voting is our single most important responsibility. Misunderstandings and sloppy selections can cost citizens dearly. Not voting can cost us even more.

April 5 is election day here in Chicago and the surrounding areas. What we're voting for is local politicians and issues. But there has been precious little information shared with us concerning who is running and what we're voting for. If you're not actively involved in your community you probably won't recognize the names on the ballot. The ballots are singularly un-helpful.

Local Politicians

You can vote for multiple selections on most of the positions. If there are four choices, you'll probably have four names for candidates running or you can write in others of your choice. You won't know the political persuasion of any of the named candidates looking at the ballot, and, of course, you won't have any information to evaluate the qualifications of the candidates, so it would be wise to get hold of a ballot ahead of time and do some research. Generally speaking, though, with four names and four names to choose from, we can be assured that the most likely winners will be those names on the ballot.

Makes a voter wonder what we're really voting for.

Referendums

On the other hand, this election includes voter referendums that could be critical. In Oak Park one referendum calls for an increase of taxes and one approves the the Village selecting energy providers for all residents who don't choose to opt out. This is where things can get a little sticky. 

The increase of taxes seems fairly benign – allowing an increase to cover schools.. It estimates an impact of roughly $150 in added taxes per year. But there's a discrepancy and it looks like the end result will actually be an increase of more like $500 per year. Check out http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/03-08-2011/A_balled-up_ballot to understand how this could happen. 

The second would appear to be a good thing, potentially winning some reduction of energy costs…IF you remember to keep apprised of developments and decisions in the future and be very careful to opt out if the changes are not in your best interests. I personally don't like opt out provisions when it comes to money.  It's too easy to get caught off guard. But that's my personal preference.

Nevertheless it's critical that we do our homework and GET OUT AND VOTE!

Decisions Now Will Impact 2012

If this all is a frustrating exercise in futility, let it be a foreshadowing of the 2012 election. And let this be the beginning of your personal effort to get in the habit of speaking up loud and clear when elections come around.

In 2012 we will have a lot more information on the candidates in the media. In fact, we can expect to be bombarded with all kinds of mis-information and in-your-face marketing from now until the big day. In that case, the problem with be too much bad and slanted information – not a lack of information. And the stakes will be very high indeed.

The problem with that election will be, that the electoral college will determine the outcome – and that may, or may not, agree with the popular vote.  In its simplest form we will vote for our state party and they will vote for the president and vice president. It's all based on complicated mathematical equations and juggling of numbers. And, beyond that, with all the money that's going to floating around between now and the big day, we need to be very wary about who our state politician are working for.

And that means Get Out and Vote early and Vote Often…don't let a single election, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, slip through the cracks.

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