For many people, politics is mostly a spectator sport – something that a few people do and most others watch from a distance – TV news, radio, newspapers or Internet. Lack of citizen participation, however, makes our democracy weak. To make it work properly, many people must participate.
Voting is the most common way that people take part in the political process, but voting means little if there are no choices for local races. If only one party appears on the ballot, why bother to vote?
Fortunately, good citizens can remedy this situation! This is the time of year when the choices that will be on the November ballot are taking shape, when people are stepping forward to put their names on the ballot for November.
In 2012, the top of the ticket will be led by the presidential candidates, followed in Michigan by candidates for U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, the Michigan House, and then local races. Lots of local races. This fall, the four-year positions of supervisor, clerk, treasurer, and trustees of all 16 townships in the county will be on the ballot, as well as all nine slots on the Livingston County Commission and six county-wide offices.
We don’t hear much about local races in the media so it’s easy for us to forget that townships touch our day-to-day lives in so many ways. Townships provide police and fire protection, water and sewer services, libraries, meals and recreation centers for senior citizens, and recreational services and facilities. Yet too often, the races for those township positions have only one candidate. Voters have no choice and elected officials have little worry about keeping their jobs. And that’s not a real democracy.
In more densely populated townships, jobs such as supervisor, clerk, and treasurer amount to nearly full-time jobs. The supervisor is responsible for developing the township budget, conducting board meetings, acting as the township’s legal agent, and keeping the supervisor’s office records. A township treasurer collects taxes, keeps an account of the money the township receives and spends, writes township checks, deposits funds, and handles township investments. A township clerks keeps track of all township records, takes minutes at board meetings and publishes them; keeps voter registration files and conducts elections, as well as preparing financial statements. Supervisors, treasurers, and clerks all have deputies to help them in their duties.
But township trustee positions are far from full-time jobs in the vast majority of cases. In Hartland Township, for example, the township board meets the first and third Tuesdays of the month, plus special meetings and work sessions. The trustees act as legislators for the township, passing ordinances and approving the budget. A trustee position may be ideal for those of us who are pressed for time as we juggle raising children, maintaining our homes, and working one or two jobs.
People sometimes think they aren’t qualified to be an elected official, but the most important qualification for any officeholder is a sincere desire to make his or her community better. That, along with old-fashioned common sense, goes a long way.
Livingston County Democrats are looking for people who want to have a say in their local community, who are willing to step forward and give their friends and neighbors a choice at the ballot box. People wishing to run for office have until 4 p.m. on May 15 to file as a candidate and have their name placed on the Aug. 7 primary ballot. Filing nominating papers is a simple process and one we can help you through, as well as all the other details of running for office.
If you would like to talk about how to get involved in your township government, please call the Livingston County Democratic Party at (810) 229-4212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Let’s have real democracy in Livingston County. That’s what freedom is all about.