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Vote smart: Why the Aug. 26 elections are important

Your vote matters, and here’s why

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And it is: The glass-half-full side of the depressing “perfect voter” statistics we cited before is that your voice is actually amplified in low-turnout elections. Your vote could have the power of four votes, or perhaps even 10 votes, depending on whether you count the whole population or just registered voters. In Orange County’s 2010 elections, Republican primary voters outnumbered Democratic voters by 20,000 votes, despite the fact that there are 300,000 registered Democrats and only 200,000 registered Republicans in the county. If you care about progressive issues, throw your weight around.

THE SCHOOLING

In 2002, voters approved a half-penny sales tax for education that was intended to fund renovation and construction in the county’s public schools. The tax is set to expire in 2015, and Orange County Public Schools is lobbying heavily to have it renewed, even though chairman Bill Sublette admits that the school board was unable to fulfill its promises of rebuilding and renovating all the schools it originally intended to. The recession and decreasing local tax revenues created the alleged perfect storm that allowed for only 90 of the county’s schools to receive improvements.

“We’ve done such great things but there’s so much left to do,” Orange County Public Schools board member Nancy Robbinson says, “and it would be a shame for students and faculty at the schools on the list [for repairs] not to get the chance.”

There hasn’t much resistance to the “Change4Kids” tax campaign. The only real controversy surrounding the ballot question comes from a minor protest vote promised by parents and faculty of schools that are likely to be closed in order to make way for five new K-8 facilities: schools like the treasured Fern Creek Elementary. There is always some confusion as to whether “rebuilding or renovating” schools, in OCPS parlance, actually means tearing them down.

COUNTY SEATS

Three county commission seats are up for grabs in August – Districts 2, 4 and 6. District 2 Commissioner Fred Brummer is stepping down due to term limits, leaving five candidates and a write-in to vie for his seat. District 6 Commissioner Tiffany Moore Russell is likewise stepping down – she is running in a special election for Orange County Clerk of Courts – opening the door for six candidates to try for that seat. But most interesting will be the concerted effort by progressives and Democrats to replace incumbent (and continuing hopeful) District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Thompson.

“From the party’s perspective, it’s important that we communicate to voters just who the Democratic voters are in the local races,” says Orange County Democratic Executive Committee chair Carlos Smith. “We know most of the races are nonpartisan, so Republican incumbents get to hide their affiliation.”

Of the five hopefuls in District 2, two are Republican: Bryan Nelson and Prince Brown. Greg Jackson, Alvin Moore (the Democratic favorite) and Patricia Rumph are registered Dems. District 6 hosts an all-Dem roster including Lawanna Gelzer, Homer Hartage, Victoria Siplin, Derrick “Shine” Wallace, Roberta Walton and Virginia Whittington.

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