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Voters have more than a president to elect

Oct. 31, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Unless one is living under a rock, there is little chance that an American over the age of 10 lacks knowledge of the presidential election on Nov. 6. In the massive attention to the presidential campaigns, many Americans have forgotten we are not only electing a president, but also voting on state and local officials as well as legal changes.

This is crucial. Political scientists know that much of what affects us in our daily lives does not come from the White House or Congress, but rather the state Capitol and county and city officials. We need to vote on all the local questions and candidates. Nov. 6 is more than the presidential election.

We Americans understand the importance of electing our officials. The problem is we often don't bother to vote. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that fewer than 65 percent of eligible voters went to the polls for the November 2008 election. A smaller percent of West Virginians did so.

We need to do better. There are many choices in candidates and issues that affect us locally. Our state legislators are vital to the success of projects in Cabell and Wayne counties. Those now in office in the 5th Senatorial District, and the 16th and 17th Delegate Districts have helped our area greatly.

Aside from Huntington's mayoral race, where the position is not just ceremonial, we will be electing our entire City Council. Choose your district and at-large council members carefully. Not too long ago, we elected a Huntington City Council that was an embarrassment. We can't let it happen again.

One of the most important contests concerns the 14 candidates vying for the seven magistrate positions. Some incumbent magistrates have excellent reputations and should be re-elected; others are not as good. While it would be desirable to have increased educational qualifications for this position, that isn't going to happen. So, gather as much information as possible about these candidates. Previously, we came very close to electing a candidate who should never have been in a position to make judicial decisions.

There are three Huntington Charter Amendment issues on the ballot. All three make sense and deserve a "Yes" vote.

The first one asks voters to eliminate the residency requirement for hiring city employees. When Huntington had 75,000 plus residents, this rule worked well, but with our significant population decline and the city's goal of recruiting the best employees, this is no longer practical.

The second amendment change removes the requirement for the director of public works to be a licensed public engineer. These credentials are no longer essential for the type of work to be performed.

The third item eliminates a central garage and motor pool for all city vehicles. This hasn't been workable in recent years, if ever.

There is one state Constitutional Amendment on the ballot that I believe deserves a "No" vote.

This would remove the two-term limit from the office of sheriff. In many West Virginia counties, the sheriff has an extreme amount of power from law enforcement and financial oversight. Too much power concentrated for too long in a single individual can be dangerous.

We Americans are fortunate. We have the privilege of voting for the people who represent us as well as the issues affecting us. Whether you agree or disagree with my thoughts here is not the primary issue. What really matters is that you vote not only in the presidential election but also on state and local matters.

Diane W. Mufson is a licensed psychologist. She is a former citizen member of The Herald-Dispatch editorial board and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page. Her email is dwmufson@comcast.net.

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