Let's start by acknowledging that we're all a little tired out by election 2016.
Maybe it's the never-ending scandals. Maybe it's the frustration with the political process and the two-party system. Maybe it was that damn taco bowl tweet that pushed you over the edge.
Whatever made you check out, we need you back – yes, three months from now on Nov. 8, but also for the upcoming Florida primaries on Aug. 30. This is when you push your favored candidates forward into the next round – not just choosing who gets to advance to the next round for Florida's U.S. Senate seat, but also who will serve in less-exalted roles, like the Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District or the Narcoossee Community Development District.
These races might seem small, even insignificant, compared to the presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But real change starts from the bottom. Electing an Orange County judge might seem like an insignificant act, but judges preside over hundreds of civil and criminal cases a year and influence the local criminal justice system. Take, for example, the case of Jacksonville circuit judge Mark Hulsey, who's currently being investigated after allegedly making demeaning comments about women and saying black people should get on a boat and "go back to Africa," according to the Associated Press. It's not fair to defendants, who should be judged based on the principle of "innocent until proven guilty."
Or look at the Soil and Water Conservation District seats. It sounds like a pretty boring position until you learn they're responsible for helping with conservation programs and protecting natural resources across the state. People on this board are more important than ever as the beaches along the Treasure Coast turn into what the Miami Herald called "Playa Guacamole" from the blue-green algae blooms choking the shore.
Voting on Aug. 30 is even more important for Bernie fans, Libertarians, Green Party members and everyone else currently angry at a political system that allows certain Democrats and Republicans to have a duopoly. Waiting four more years for the next presidential revolution is a long time. Voting in the August primary for local and state candidates who reflect your ideals builds a base of power. Back in 2011, Wes Moore wrote in Time magazine that the two-party system could be broken from the ground up simply by making 25 percent of elected mayors independent or non-major party-affiliated by 2015, and then elevating them to higher offices.
"Instead of focusing on a third-party or independent candidate capturing the presidency as a make-or-break strategy for 2012 (the chances of which are close to nil), we must first begin by seeding candidates for offices that have the most direct involvement with the American people on the municipal level," Moore wrote.
Please go vote, and if you haven't registered ... well, it's too late for the primary, but please do so by Oct. 11 so you can take part in the November general election. Remember that Florida is a closed primary state, meaning poll workers can't help you for the August primary if your party affiliation (or lack thereof) is recorded incorrectly; that cutoff date was Aug. 1.
You can cast your votes, though, in nonpartisan races and on the ballot initiative Amendment 4, which provides tax exemptions that make it less expensive to go solar, and which should not be confused with the solar Amendment 1 that will be on the ballot this November. (Backed by utility companies, Amendment 1 ensures Florida's current status of harnessing less than 1 percent of the state's energy from solar power, according to Florida Today, would remain in effect.) If you want to vote early, you can do so at several locations around Orange County until Aug. 28. In short, when you go to the polls two weeks from now, remember President Obama's best line from the Democratic National Convention: "Don't boo. Vote."
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