Dear Editor:

It’s that time of year again when candidates announce their intentions for re-election or to run for public office. This election year I encourage you to be an educated voter. What does an educated voter need to do, you ask? It’s pretty simple really, just get to know the people you are voting for.

On a local level there are several opportunities where you can attend a political function and hear the candidates speak. You undoubtedly will receive several push card, letters and postcards asking for your support and your vote. Read them thoroughly and perhaps even follow up with a phone call directly to the candidate and ask them some pertinent questions on where they stand on the issues that interest you. Attending functions for state and national positions is not always easy so making phone calls is really your best option. Ads are sometimes useful but nothing works better than that one on one contact where you can assess a candidate personally and make a decision based on that first impression. Candidates know the importance of first impressions and have their "game faces" on so to speak but don’t be afraid to ask those hard questions and measure their responses accordingly.

Many voters tend to vote strictly by party line. Phrases like die-hard Democrats and Republicans come to mind when thinking about voters who vote strictly by party. If this works for you and you feel confident in your choices then by all means continue to vote accordingly but if you have ever been let down by your party or feel that the letter R, D or I behind a name is just the beginning of finding out who the candidate is then I encourage you to look further.

Many first time voters are discouraged and think that their vote won’t even count so why bother? We are not only fortunate that we have the right to vote but it is our duty as citizens to exercise those rights. If you have ever bought anything at a store, sent your children to school or paid a utility bill then you need to remember that those people that you vote into office make decisions for you as to where your tax dollars go when you pay for groceries, or pay your electric bill just to name a few examples of what our representatives do for us. School board members often go unnoticed and their voter turn out is very low. This should never be the case if you have children or grandchildren in the school system. These school board members make decisions that directly affect your children so why wouldn’t you want a say in who represents their interests? Your vote does make a difference but only if you take the time to vote.

It’s a misconception that if you register to vote you will be called for jury duty. Jury selections are taken from drivers license information so don’t let the concern of jury duty prevent you from registering to vote.

Sure there are times when you vote for a candidate, they win their election and let you down later with their actions after they take office. To this end I suggest that you stay involved, letters and phone calls reminding those officials who they are representing and why is not only helpful but our only way to make a difference and assure that our vote counted. There is always the next election and another candidate to chose from should our voices fall on deaf ears after election time has come and gone.

There is no time like the present to become involved, to take an interest in those that will represent your interests and the interests of those you love. Be an educated voter, share what you learn with others and vote.

Jackie Sikes