Across the country, today is Election Day to determine who will lead our cities and states. In New Jersey and Virginia, voters will select governors, and the results will be seen as a measure of the public’s approval of President Obama. Given that these two states are the first to hold elections after a presidential election, the results will be closely monitored to gauge whether there is any slip in the public’s support of the Obama administration. While we don’t subscribe the idea that they are a referendum on the President, they will provide the White House with some sense of where their message is not resonating with the public.
There are also several cities that will select mayors in today’s elections. In New York City, the incumbent Michael Bloomberg, is facing a stiff challenge from city Comptroller William Thompson. The challenger has been endorsed by the New York Amsterdam News and El Diario, the two newspapers that serve the Black and Latino communities in the nation’s largest city. Mayor Bloomberg, a billionaire who made his fortune by building a media empire that carries his name, has already spent an unprecedented $85 million on his effort to win a third term. In Atlanta, voters will select a successor to Mayor Shirley Franklin who is leaving office. In that race, a white member of the Atlanta City Council may become the first white mayor of Atlanta since the pre-Maynard Jackson era. Detroit’s voters will be choosing between incumbent Mayor Dave Bing, the former Detroit Piston and NBA Hall of Famer, and Tom Barrow, a familiar name and face to many residents of the Motor City.
Blacks have a major stake in all of these elections and we encourage Black Americans, in particular, but all voters to fulfill their civic duty and vote. We are living during a period of great anxiety and uncertainty in our nation. We need strong leaders who are willing to make tough choices, be creative and engage citizens to address many of the pressing issues we face. Too often, voters casually cast their ballots without making informed choices. Before you vote, go to the websites of the candidates and find out where they stand on the issues. You should also read your local newspapers and in some instances, organizations such as the League of Women Voters and the NAACP have good, nonpartisan evaluations of the candidates and the issues. Make sure you read your sample ballot because there are likely to be important public questions or initiatives that will commit your state or city to spending tax dollars. Don’t just vote, be an informed voter. Voting is a serious responsibility and we urge you to treat it as such.
Today is the chance to have your say. Barring a disputed outcome, the results of voting will be known tonight. Tomorrow is not the time to complain. Once the results are know, whether your candidate wins or loses, you still have an obligation to stay involved in your community. Voting is just the first step toward full democratic participation.