Michelle Mann

The best time to remind people to vote seems to be the day after an election.

That’s when “Are you kidding me?” is the reaction of many people when they see the election results from the night before.

Next Tuesday, Nov. 6, we have the chance—again—to vote. We have a chance to make a difference on several very important issues.

The midterm elections traditionally garner the less voter turnout than the presidential elections do. Which is amazing and disturbing. In the most recent elections in Dale and Coffee County, the voter turnout percentages were in the teens.

On the ballot Nov. 6 are four constitutional amendments that, if approved, will create a “new normal” in the state.

Voter approval of Amendment 1 authorizes the display of the Ten Commandments on public property.

Voter approval of Amendment 2 establishes it as Alabama policy to “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children” and states that the constitution does not provide a right to abortion or abortion funding.

The other two amendments concern legislative vacancies and the University of Alabama board of trustees, respectively.

On the Dale County ballot are two very important local issues to be decided. One referendum will decide if the sale of alcohol will be allowed on Sundays in Dale County and one is a tag tax earmarked to give financial support to emergency medical service providers.

If the Sunday alcohol sales is passed, it will allow for the sale of alcohol—on and off premises—after 1 p.m. in Dale County. Municipalities within the county will be included if the referendum is passed but will have the option of opting out by municipal resolution. Passage of this referendum will also save municipalities within Dale County the expense of holding their own elections on the issue.

The amendment to benefit EMS has been the topic of many meetings between the Dale County Commissioners, volunteer fire and rescue departments and the Dale County Mayors’ Association.

How to distribute some $271,000 expected to be generated annually to the municipalities and volunteer fire and rescue departments has been hammered out after many meetings.

As a person who has attended those meetings, I can promise that every possible scenario for equitable distribution of funds has been discussed. For example, the city of Level Plains currently contracts with the city of Enterprise’s EMS for emergency medical services. Thanks to the efforts of Level Plains Mayor Bruce Grantham, that service—even though Enterprise is out of Dale County—can be paid for through the tag tax.

“We’re trying to get the volunteer organizations in a position where we can get money to them so they can spend more time providing emergency medical services than doing fund-raising,” is the point that Dale County County Commission Chairman Mark Blankenship has driven home.

With all that said, Dale County voters should be aware that the words “emergency medical services” and “tag tax” are not written on the ballot. The wording on the vote is to approve (or not) Act 239. The commissioners and the mayors’ association have agreed on this issue. Now it’s up to the voters to decide.

It’s no secret that the United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts, which is ironic for a country so fiercely protective of freedom.

Few who watched will ever forget the faces of the Iraqis lined up for miles for a chance to vote January 30, 2005 in the first general election held in their country since the United States-led invasion in 2003. The event marked a major step in turning control of the country over to the Iraqis themselves.

As a means of fraud prevention, a finger on those who had voted was marked with purple ink. The ballot is stronger than the bullet is something that former United States President Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying. It was clear that the Iraqi voters hoped for that truth as news film and photos flashed around the world of citizens with ear to ear grins holding up their purple fingers with pride.

Sometimes I think that my single vote won’t make a difference—and as I go to the polls I see fellow-voters that I know clearly will be cancelling out any impact of my vote.

Then I remember the election of 2000 when President George W. Bush’s narrow victory over Democrat challenger Al Gore ended up being decided by the United States Supreme Court and I remember again the importance of a single vote.

We voice our concerns to elected officials—some of us more than others—but if we aren’t voting, our concerns lack teeth.

If you have an opinion—vote.

Because you can.

Michelle Mann is a staff writer for The Southeast Sun and Daleville Sun-Courier. The opinions of this writer are her own and not the opinion of the paper. She can be reached at (334) 393-2969 or by email at mmann@southeastsun.com.

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