Our View: To get the government you want, vote

June 2, 2014 

We like to think that those who read these pages don’t have to be reminded of the importance of voting. In fact, we’re certain many of you have already sent in your ballots.

But if it slipped your mind, then you need to visit your local polling place today and drop it off. If you simply prefer to vote in person, then this is your big day. Unfortunately, registrars statewide are predicting the vast majority will skip this election. They say only 20 to 25 percent will vote. We hope that’s not true here.

Why? Because good government depends on your votes. Not necessarily on the statewide or national levels, but on the local level – where government really counts. Today’s winners will be with us for at least the next four years, making policy, setting rules and running departments that affect our lives each and every day.

The old adage you get the government you deserve is absolutely true. Voting gives you a better chance of getting the government you want.

In Merced County, we’re electing a sheriff – one of the most important jobs in local law enforcement.

Voters will also select a supervisor in two districts. They not only set policy, they control the county’s $468 million budget. Most of that money comes directly out of our pockets in one way or another. That’s why the office of treasurer-tax collector is important. The treasurer tries to collect all that is due, then invests it in safe places.

Those running to represent us in Sacramento and Washington are using this election as a practice run. The 16th Congressional District has drawn a slew of candidates – including two strong challengers from Merced. Consider a vote for an incumbent a vote of confidence; a vote for a challenger is way of expressing dissatisfaction and a desire for change.

This is a historic election, too. It’s the first in which the top-two statewide primary system is in use. You don’t have to stick to party lines. In races with more than two candidates, the top two advance to November’s general election. Top-two has already spiced up competition. A challenge – even from within the same party – can keep elected officials on their toes. We like it.

Consider the secretary of state and controller’s races. Traditionally, these primaries were essentially foregone conclusions for party-backed candidates. Top-two has created larger fields, a change for the better. For secretary of state, our top election official, there are four eminently qualified candidates – two Democrats, a Republican and one independent. In the controller’s race, former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is the Democratic favorite, but he’s getting a strong challenge from Democrat Betty Yee. Without top-two, she might not have even have tried. Still, it’s only a primary, as the presence of 15 candidates for governor and eight for lieutenant governor attests.

But for local races, the results will be very real. Don’t sit this one out. But then, we didn’t think you would.

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