If it's Labor Day, then it's campaign season in Illinois. And, as is often the case, our elections this fall will be interesting ones. The presidential race, the U.S. Senate race, the 92nd Illinois State Representative race, several judicial races around the state, and many others will prove to be exciting to watch and, in some cases, quite competitive. While we aren't a "swing state" and may not get as much attention from the presidential candidates as other states do, Illinoisans will be in the mix, and we'll be casting our votes.
But how many of us will really get out and vote? How many are even registered? The numbers usually aren't good. In the November 2002 elections, only 50.37 percent of the registered voters in Peoria actually voted. What causes this lack of engagement? I'm certainly not a researcher or an expert in this area, but my guess is people feel disengaged from the political process and that it may not even be relevant to their personal life. "My vote-or lack of vote-won't make any difference to the overall result," you may think.
This is a dangerous slope for our country and our community. We need engaged and involved people at all levels of government. They need to vote for the candidates of their choice, get involved in the campaigns of people they support, and even consider running for office.
This last part, running for office, needs to be of great importance within the business community. Business leaders, key managers, and just regular employees need to find ways to run for public office. We need to take the knowledge and experiences of running a business and blend that with the political process. That's the only way our business climate locally, at the state level, and on a national level will support growth and prosperity. If you're a business owner, follow the example of people like Dick Carver, Jim Maloof, Bud Grieves, and David Ransburg. If you're a key manager, work with your employer, as Eric Turner, David Leitch, Dick Neumiller, Gale Thetford, John Morris, David Koehler, Sue Yoder, and many others have to find a way to make career and public service work together.
Don't sit by and do nothing this election cycle. Get informed, get involved, and get out and vote. If you aren't registered, get that done right away. If you don't have information about the state and national candidates, go to the chamber Web site at www.peoriachamber.org and click on Illinois Business Votes. Just register with your name and address, and this site will get you to the Web sites of all the candidates in the state and federal races. While the site is a pro-business site, you can get information directly on all the candidates, regardless of party, through the site. Go to candidate forums or gatherings. You can get information directly from the candidates themselves that way. Read, watch, and listen to news reports about the candidates and the issues. Then mark your calendar on November 2 and take the time to put your knowledge to work and vote.
And don't forget-we'll have another election in spring 2005 for local offices. Maybe you should start thinking today about what your role in those elections will be. IBI