By Cheri Rae
And when it all comes down to it, we’ll likely prove once again that the local practice of campaigning by parading candidates in front of the public in endless forums is virtually meaningless. Because the real work and heavy lifting is all behind-the scenes in endless fund-raisers and endorsement gathering that really make the difference.
Most of this is done well before any of us is paying any attention to what’s going on behind our backs. Before it’s in front of our noses, it’s too late to make a difference. And that’s the message that’s getting through: Hardly anyone is even bothering to vote.
Nothing could be simpler than filling out a ballot while sitting on the couch and returning it in its own postage-paid envelope. But our mail-only election is indicating a return rate hovering around 30 percent.
It has long appeared that the front-runners are the ones with the most money—with a couple of candidates raising well over $100,000 in hopes of securing their seats. If money is the only thing that matters, why bother voting? Because voting still matters, each and every one.
Some people still believe in the civic duty of voting, no matter what. I know of two examples of Santa Barbara residents who are currently far from home taking the time and making the effort to vote in this election. A teacher who is currently working in the Netherlands received her ballot when a friend hand-carried it back and forth on a recent visit. And a student, currently working as a nanny in Italy, made arrangements with the City Clerk’s office to submit her voting electronically.
Maybe these two responsible citizens were more enthusiastic from afar; they didn’t have to deal with the bought-and-paid-for glossy mailers, or even the silly dust-ups over who-is-giving-money-and-endorsements-to-whom-and-why-they-were-selected-and-what-the-expectations-are-when-no-one-will-say.
They cared enough to make a special effort. And so should you.
One day before an important election in our city, I am embarrassed to see what has come of politics as usual, when voting seems far less important than the amount of money raised.
There’s something wrong when wealthy candidates simply loan themselves big bucks to fuel their campaigns. There’s something seriously wrong when the impressive amount of money raised early on is used to intimidate potential candidates from entering a race. And there’s something really wrong when most of the residents of the city feel powerless in their ability to make a difference that they don’t even vote at all.
I understand the cynicism that comes from that; however, campaign finance reform is a discussion for another day. Until then, get out that ballot and vote.
You have one day more to choose among an interesting cast of characters on the ballot—some who express idealism and are not bought-and-paid-for in the usual way. Vote for one, two or three of them to represent you on City Council. The only way to confound the force of big money is for a big turnout that turns conventional wisdom upside-down.
Let your voice be heard. Fill out your ballot today and get it to City Hall before 8 p.m. on Tuesday night. You have no right to complain if you don’t participate. VOTE!
Drop Off Locations:
City of Santa Barbara City Hall – Lobby 735 Anacapa Street Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Calvary Baptist Church Sizer Hall 736 W. Islay Street Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Franklin Neighborhood Center 1136 E. Montecito Street Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Grace Lutheran Church 3869 State Stree t Santa Barbara, CA 93105