When I was 18, I, like many other young people was excited that I could finally vote. For most of my life, I had been taught the importance of it, and how much using the right to vote meant for our society.

Unfortunately, when the time finally rolled around for me to head for the polls, I was presented with what I considered to be the worst two candidates in the history of presidential elections. I still went out and voted though, as I felt that if I didn’t, I would forfeit the right to complain about politics for the next four years.

I share that anecdote because I was recently shocked and disappointed by the numbers that came out of Oak Grove from the recent primary elections. With less than one percent of the town’s registered voters actually participating in the election, Oak Grove brought the entire county’s voting turnout down from 22 percent to 17 percent.

Numbers like that make me question two things. The first is whether Oak Grove actually cares who represents them. The second is whether the people of Oak Grove understand the importance of getting out to vote, even in local elections that aren’t covered on cable news.

In the last mayoral race in 2014, current Mayor Bea Burt edged out her closest competition, Randy Pierce, by three votes. In local elections, just a few votes can make all the difference, and staying home turns in to a vote against the person you actually want to win.

Obviously, the numbers may be wrong on the number of registered voters in Oak Grove.

The rolls have 12,000 people registered, while the town claims that only around 8,000 live

there. Even if that’s the case, the numbers are still pretty terrible.

I bring this up now, because there’s been a lot of talk recently of people who are upset with the city council and the mayor. On the other side, there’s people who think they’ve done a great job. A hot election season is surely coming up.

This will be the time to have your voice heard. If you’re unhappy with the mayor or the city council members, vote. If you think they’ve done a good job and should have another term, vote. If you think you could do a better job than those in place currently, run.

On the flip side, if you don’t vote, don’t complain when you think the people in charge are doing a bad job.

The importance of voting, even in your local elections can’t be overstated. You have a right that doesn’t exist in many other countries. Exercise it.

(MATT STAHL is an intern at The Eagle Post. Reach him at mstahl@eaglepost.us.)

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