On Feb. 17, residents of District 6 in the City of Charleston will have the opportunity to redeem themselves of their apathy. On Feb. 3, only 349 of the 5,353 registered voters cast their votes in the special election for the vacant Charleston City Council seat once held by Wendell Gilliard.
Low voter turnout is nothing new in a special election. However, with so much at stake, one would hope that at least 10 percent of the registered voters would have voted. The residents of Dist. 6 are better than that.
While voters may not always vote for the better, most qualified and capable candidate, I truly believe that people must voice their opinions with their votes and by their actions. It amazes me that people claim to support the soldiers, sailors, airmen and -women, and marines who preserve our freedom and defend our way of life, yet they fail to vote.
As a veteran of the Iraq War, I often reflect on my deployment in terms of fighting to bring freedom and democracy to another country and to provide its citizens with the right to vote and the security to exercise that right. To have low voter turnout here in the United States, in any election, is a disgrace. In my opinion, there is no excuse not to vote. If you cannot vote on the day of the election, vote by absentee ballot.
Residents in Dist. 6 have the opportunity to elect someone who will not be a rubber stamp on city council. These residents have the opportunity to elect someone who has tangible goals, a clear vision, the resources, and the background that are desperately needed on city council. If the most qualified and capable candidate does not win this election, Charleston City Council as a whole will not be stronger.
With so many community and economic developments taking place in Charleston, the lack of oversight that exists with a strong mayor/weak council form of government, and fewer subject matter experts on city council, I truly believe that William Dudley Gregorie would be a great addition to city government and a valuable asset to council.
Voters cannot sit back and say that their votes will not matter in this election, nor can they say that there are not clear differences between the two candidates, Gregorie and Tommie Fleming Coaxum. For the voter who feels that it doesn't matter who wins, keep in mind that ineffective elected officials are elected by good people who do not vote. It shouldn't matter if you live in West Ashley or on the peninsula; long-term proper planning and infrastructure desires must be the focus of the next city council member of that district. If the citizens don't care, that speaks to what people really think about this city.
When it comes to this race, perhaps more debates or community forums should have taken place so people would have had the opportunity to see and hear Gregorie and Coaxum as well as ask tough questions of the two candidates. Perhaps the media — print, television, and radio — should have focused more on the race — the only in town on Feb. 3.
Regardless of what could have or should have taken place, we have a runoff on Feb. 17, and residents of Dist. 6 in the city of Charleston will have the opportunity to vote for the candidate they feel is best suited to have the honor of serving on city council.
Be a part of the solution and the process of making Charleston city government more efficient and effective. If you need another reason to vote on Feb. 17, or if you are undecided about who to vote for, I leave you with a great quote from John Quincy Adams: "Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost."
Trust me, I would know.