It is tough to miss that the primary election is in two weeks.
You have seen candidate signs, received mailers and may have had the opportunity to meet many of the women and men running for office. But, did you know that only 26 percent of registered Manatee County voters cast a ballot in the 2016 primary election?
In addition to determining candidates for November’s general election, several local seats will be filled via the results of the Aug. 28 primary. Voters will select their preferred candidate in non-partisan races for the Manatee County School Board and Circuit Judge, 12th Judicial Circuit.
Most, if not all, of these school board and judicial seats will be decided by voters in August, not the November general election. The power and responsibility of electing top decision makers to represent you and our community cannot be overstated.
The Manatee Chamber of Commerce places great emphasis on getting out the vote by encouraging business people and local employees to make their choices count. One of the most important things we do as citizens to ensure that we have a strong business community and a great quality of life is to vote.
The Manatee Chamber does not endorse candidates for public office, but we regularly take positions on issues that are important to local businesses and our community. We believe it is vitally important that voters learn about each candidate before casting their ballot.
To help with voter education, the Manatee Chamber prepared a candidate questionnaire for those individuals running for the Manatee County Commission and Manatee County School Board. How do the candidates respond to issues of concern to the Chamber and the business community? Learn more about their positions at ManateeChamber.com/Candidates.
You have three ways to cast your ballot for the primary election – vote by mail, early voting and at the polls on election day. The last day to request a ballot to be mailed to you is Aug. 22.
Mail-in ballots must be returned and received by the Supervisor of Elections’ Office by 7 p.m. on primary election day. Early voting begins Aug. 18 and runs through Aug. 25. On Aug. 28, primary election day, polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
After the primary election has passed, voters should prepare to cast their choices in the Nov. 6 general election. To help share insights on what to expect, the Manatee Chamber will host Dr. Susan MacManus, distinguished University of South Florida professor and political analyst, at a Headliners Luncheon on Oct. 8.
It is important that ongoing dialogue with our elected officials, at all levels of government, is a two-way street. It is incumbent upon us all to educate ourselves on where candidates stand on issues.
It is also critical that candidates and elected officials hear from their constituents about what issues impact us every day - transportation, housing, taxation, health care, education, natural resources and more.
We should each commit to ensuring that our voice is heard by getting out the vote.