This election season, you don't hear anyone complaining about voter apathy. Quite the opposite. Across town and around the country, arguments -- even physical fights -- are breaking out over issues and candidates. The statistical dead heat between the two major presidential candidates, bad blood over the 2000 presidential election, concern over possible voting irregularities this year, local fear of a repeat of the Sept. 18 voting machine debacle, and vital national issues including the economy and the war in Iraq are combining to make this one of the most heated elections in recent history.
Locally, voters will make decisions that will help decide the future of the city and state. Last week, the volume turned up on the races for criminal sheriff and U.S. Senate. Also last week, another contentious and ultimately unproductive school board meeting demonstrated the need for a new board -- and a new era for local public schools. Meanwhile, the future of the city's public spaces hinges on a bond issue that will pump $260 million into city streets, NORD playgrounds and other facilities.
MSNBC's Dan Abrams recently noted that 33 countries -- most of them "true democracies" such as Australia and Italy -- actually require their citizens to vote. We don't advocate that position, but we do stress that voting is both a right and an obligation. For those few voters who remain undecided or uninspired in the presidential race, the important local contests should be enough to warrant a trip to the polls. (To locate your polling place and see a sample ballot listing the candidates for each race in your district, visit the Web site http://126.96.36.199/VoterAddresses/default.asp.)
Gambit Weekly does not endorse in presidential races, because we focus our reporting on local and state affairs. We also do not endorse in judicial races. But throughout the past campaign season, we have met with candidates for other races to decide on Gambit Weekly's recommendations. We agree with Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, who recently told American Journalism Review that newspaper endorsements, done well, "get us very close to what journalism is all about, which is citizen debate." To that end, we once again present the Gambit Weekly ballot. For more information on our choices, please see last week's Commentary at www.bestofneworleans.com. Most of all, we urge all our readers to learn, debate and vote.