Make a difference; get out and vote today

You can rally, you can debate, you can post comments online all hours of the day, but none of it means much if you don't exercise your right to vote.

Given the level of interest in local, state and national elections, we expect a very good turnout today. We might not reach the 76 percent voter turnout of the 2008 presidential election, but we'll almost certainly beat the 46 percent turnout of the 2006 mid-term election. Beaufort County now boasts 96,261 registered voters, according to the state Election Commission's website. For the 2008 election, the county had 90,887 registered voters.

Unfortunately, our voter turnout rates in recent years haven't been very good for party primaries and municipal elections. But that may be about to change.

Hilton Head Island voters, spurred by contested races for three council seats and a seven-candidate mayoral race, will see what voting in a general election can do for turnout. This is the first municipal election in a general election year since the town decided to switch to that schedule.

Voter -- and candidate -- turnout in recent Hilton Head elections has been paltry. The last time Hilton Head elected a mayor in 2005, voter turnout was just 13 percent. In 2007, no one challenged the three incumbent council members up for election, so no election was even held.

But a special election for the Ward 2 seat in 2009 brought out six candidates and about 20 percent of that district's voters.

We'd like to see that improved level of participation for all our elective offices. The list of unchallenged incumbents on today's ballot is far too long.

If turnout is high today, here are some suggestions to keep the lines moving a bit more quickly:

  • Be prepared to vote. Study sample ballots available before you go to the polls, especially the four state constitutional amendments you will be asked to vote on. Constitutional amendments can be hard to sort out, given their arcane language, especially in the voting booth.
  • Look at your voter registration card to see what precinct you are in. Use that information to double-check your polling place.
  • Find out what state House district you live in. Know your County Council and school board districts. In other words, know what offices you should be voting on. If you don't see the races you expect on your ballot, say something.
  • Know that if you vote a straight-party ticket, you won't cast a vote in nonpartisan elections unless you take an extra step. That includes the Beaufort County treasurer's race, where independent petition candidate Doug Henderson is challenging incumbent Joy Logan, the Republican Party candidate.
  • Review your ballot carefully before submitting it.
  • Don't leave these important decisions to a relatively few people. The idea of collective wisdom and the ideals of democracy say we should all get out to vote today.