Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Election Day

What is it about election day?

My little suburb of St. Louis, Kirkwood, has been embroiled in a little turf war. The reasons date back to the unfortunate events of February 7th and the murder of one of the favored candidates. The scuttlebutt around the coffee shop is that the majority? of citizens don't want an "appointed" candidate for mayor, but a real election.

I'm new to my quaint little nine square miles so I've been a student of local politics and culture the past few months. It turns out that some people don't like our "at large" representation at City Council. Many people believe we should be divided up into wards, that the current system means power is concentrated into the hands of a few. Others believe the racial tension that bubbled to the surface in the wake of February 7th (Community for Understanding and Healing) have also intensified the focus on the local election.

The City Council, School Board, and several city Boards are 100% white, or almost. The suburb has a smattering of minorities, with African American being the largest. The feels of disconnection ring high for one tiny neighborhood that is predominately black. There is one African-American running for School Board and two minorities (African-American and Middle Eastern American) are running for City Council. There is also one woman running for City Council and one for School Board. Some (black and white) think it is time for a change in the city.

I'm thinking about this little place in relation to the entire country. One fact that strikes me as sad is that the majority of the city won't vote. This suburb has a population of about 27,000. Recent elections usually show that only 10% of the citizens actually exercise the right so many fought and died for. Does anyone remember the Suffrage Movement of early last century and the bloody non-violent push for blacks to vote? It has been 40 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It has been 44 years since Freedom Summer when young college students (black and white) descended on the south to register black men and women to vote.

We don't have the Bull Connors and angry white mobs preventing people from voting in 2008. We do have a sense of complacency that crosses color lines. Why the apathy? Perhaps because people think power is in the hands of the few and their vote won't matter. I'm not sure. I know I must vote, even if, at 1:35pm on voting day, I still don't know who I'll vote for. I know I will go, show my voter card, present my ID, pick up a ballot, enter the voting booth, and punch a hole for someone. My vote does count. It does matter..

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