OUR VIEW: Make your vote count
Ask most people about the 2020 elections, and their minds will almost immediately go to the marquee presidential faceoff in November and the battle for control of the U.S. House and Senate.
But for those who have been paying attention, there are critical races that culminate in just a few days. And they are races that could have a significant impact on the lives of local residents for years to come.
In Bay County, the hot-ticket races include the superintendent of Bay District Schools and three board seats and a rambunctious county judgeship position, along with positions ranging from Beach Mosquito positions and state committee woman.
In Okaloosa County three of the five County Commission seats are contested and the most-talked about race is for Superintendent of Schools between incumbent Marcus Chambers and Ray Sansom. There are also candidates vying for both Republican State Committeeman and Committeewoman.
These are races voters should pay attention to — if they care about their communities, the taxes they pay, the schools their children attend. There are issues of growth and how to handle it, recovery and dealing with the pandemic, it's hard to remember a time when voting was this important.
These are issues that can have a long-reaching impact on the lives of residents, and they deserve thoughtful consideration.
Today, fortunately, voters find it easier than ever to get information on the candidate and their positions. The News Herald and Northwest Florida Daily News have printed a series of profiles on the candidates, which are available at newsherald.com and nwfdailynews.com. Candidates have Facebook pages. There’s still plenty of time to study the candidates and make informed choices without leaving the comfort of your home or even your chair.
In fact, voters have more control over election timing than ever. Once, most of the attention would have been focused on Election Day. But 2020 is different. Across Florida, hundreds of thousands of people have already voted in these races through mail-in balloting; in Bay County more than 6,000 ballots had come in a early, and that was when checked a week ago.
There will always be those who scoff at the idea of voting, who claim that (even on a local level) special interests and big-money donors dictate the outcomes. That’s only true if voters accept that reality, and they don’t have to. In the end, elections are controlled by those who show up and vote.
We always hearken back to May 9, 2000, when long-time Panama City Beach Mayor Phillip Griffiths faced a runoff against former Beach Police Chief Lee Sullivan. With more money and experience, Griffiths seemed to have the upper hand.
When the votes were counted that night, Sullivan bested him by a mere seven votes. With a 48 percent voter turnout and 2,682 votes cast, Sullivan won by seven and changed the future of Panama City Beach.
Be one of the ones who makes a difference.