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This Week

Our Observation

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It's hard not to know when an election is approaching. Political campaigns invade TV sets, newspapers, billboards, mailboxes and even your neighbors' lawns.

We see it now with the upcoming local government primary on Tuesday — county mayor and commissioner seats, school board membership and judge spots all need to be filled in 2011. But never is this in-your-face-campaigning more evident than when the country is deciding the next U.S. president.

People put more hype on the national races, as evidenced by the 131 million people reported voting in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, an increase of 5 million from 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That same year, only 3,068 people voted for the next councilman for Orlando's District 2, which was narrowly won by 42 votes. Only 538 people voted for seat 4 on the Eatonville City Council. Meanwhile, 209,078 of the 609,941 registered voters in Orange County participated in the 2008 presidential election.

This is curious since many of the decisions that directly affect our communities — and our pocketbooks — are made in city halls. The people we choose to lead on a local level decide our taxes, whether or not a big development will take root, if our roads need to be expanded and whether teachers are laid off. These decisions greatly impact our everyday lives and yet voter turnout for these elections pale in comparison to national races.

So far, 7,714 registered Orange County voters turned out for early voting with another week left to cast an early ballot before the Aug. 24 primary. That means about 5 percent of the county's registered voters have taken advantage of early voting.

This year, many of the seemingly endless streams of debates for the local government candidates drew modest crowds, so how are people educating themselves on the issues? How do they know who will represent them best once elected to govern their community?

It is important to cast a vote in local elections, but it is even more important to make an informed decision. And there are plenty of organizations out there just waiting to help people get the information they need. For instance, The Orange County League of Women Voters put out a voter guide detailing candidates who will appear on the Aug. 24 ballot. This is available at www.lwvoc.org.

If you're not registered, it is too late to participate in this upcoming election, but it is the perfect time to get ready for Nov. 2. Visit www.ocfelections.com to download the form.

Folks can also go to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections main office, 119 W. Kaley St., Orlando or to any driver's license office, public library and most post offices to register. For more information, call 407-836-2070.