OUR VIEW: Prepare to vote this Saturday

It was President Franklin D. Roosevelt who is credited with saying that nobody can ever deprive the American people of the right to vote “except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

In Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, where politics is more than a component of government but a spectator sport, the apparent interest of people in political campaigns voiced on supermarket checkout lines and coffee houses doesn’t always signal how many people will vote in a given election.

The selections this year include candidates for governor, state senate, state house of representatives, parish president and representatives for the various parish council districts.

Propositions for yet more amendments to Louisiana’s constitution are also on the ballot.

It is easy to say that the choices available for various offices are slim pickings, although in many cases that approach is easily understandable.

Those instances make for more work on the part of voters, who owe it to themselves and their neighbors to seek out whose views and approach most closely fit their own.

Candidates have certainly made clear that they are willing to discuss issues with voters. Many are traveling door-to-door. Now is the time to answer the doorbell and ask tough questions that matter to us and follow through by taking that information to the voting booth.

Don’t understand the positions of a candidate for a given office or a constitutional amendment? Ask somebody. Many candidates are surprisingly reachable by cell phone this year. Others have Web sites that present their positions.

There is a great deal of talk that has occurred – particularly while our nation was fighting wars on two fronts, in Afghanistan or Iraq – that freedom was at stake, and so worth the blood that was shed on our behalf.

No matter who I vote for, some of us say, the crooks are always going to be in office and they are always going to be looking out for themselves and not us. So why should I bother? Why should I care.

Such statements are rather broad generalizations. But even if they were to hold true, then entry into the system at the very base level – the pressing of a button or the pulling of a lever – is a first step to making change.

We can make our choices to the best of our ability, and once that is done be sure to follow what our lawmakers and executives do or don’t do.

We can familiarize ourselves with the issues they work with, and if we are still convinced that nobody is doing the job that should be done, we can even run for these offices ourselves. Some people who are waging campaigns this year have said they were motivated in just such a way.

While we don’t relish the idea of suggesting that anyone do a job in a half-baked way, if we feel comfortable making a choice for is only one of many on a local ballot, then we should still go and make that choice, so that it can be counted and matter.

Every tax dollar we pay, whether through sales taxes or state income tax or millages, is dedicated for the most part to its ultimate purpose by the representatives in Baton Rouge, or right here in our parishes.

Executives like parish presidents have control of vast sums of money that belong to all of us. There is no greater a vested interest in the outcome of an election by having a say in how the money we pay out is spent.

Jobs and other opportunities are at stake as well. One constitutional amendment up for the vote would create a special category of funding a the state level for transportation, and another would create a transportation infrastructure bank. Another will change what topics the legislature may decide on when it meets. Another removes a current tax exemption for property in Louisiana owned by other states.

Those ballot measures can be daunting certainly. But there are people ready to help inform you. The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana’s Web site, parlouisiana.org, has helpful descriptions of the amendments in plain English. Or they can be called at 225-926-8414. Someone will be happy to help.

Elections are Saturday. Take the time now to learn what you still need to know. Then don’t forget to vote.