It's Time to Boost Voter Participation in Webb County
Slightly more than 50 percent of Webb County registered voters actually cast a vote in the 2020 general election. While that percentage may appear to show strong participation, that was a presidential election. In the general election four years ago - a midterm election, as this November's election will be - only 39 percent of registered voters participated.
But even that is a deceptively high percentage. In the 2018 general election, 50,142 Webb County residents cast votes, while the county's voting-age population was approximately 185,000. That means that only 27 percent of area residents are actually participating in the political process.
Voting is a cherished right, among those for which generations of Americans have fought to defend and struggled to expand. It's a right that millions of people around the world covet. More than a right, it's also a fundamental obligation of citizenship.
Going back to the roots of democracy in ancient Greece, the philosopher Plato noted that the chief penalty for not participating in the political process is bad government. His comment is often conveyed by the humorous warning, "If you don't vote, you will be governed by idiots." More than that, if you don't exercise your right to vote, you deserve the bad government you get.
Most of the exceedingly small minority of people who actually take the time to register and cast votes in the upcoming election will be focused on high-profile federal and statewide races. Residents of Webb County will join other Texans in voting for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, among other statewide contests.
But area residents will also have the opportunity to cast ballots in races that will determine who will lead our city and county government. In Laredo, voters will select a new mayor and four City Council members. They'll also vote in a number of contested races for Webb County offices.
City and county elections rarely get the attention of races higher up on the ballot, but they should. These are the levels of government closest to our everyday lives. The leaders we elect will make decisions about the priorities and essential services for our community.
You might not feel connected to decisions made in Austin or Washington, D.C., though you are. But you should certainly feel connected to decisions made right here in our community that affect education, public safety, quality of life, taxes and the prosperity of area residents.
Do your civic duty and help determine what kind of leaders we will have. The first step is to register to vote. You can obtain information about how to register by calling the Webb County Elections Office at (956) 523-4050. You can also register online with the Texas Secretary of State at https://vrapp.sos.state.tx.us/index.asp. The deadline for voter registration is Oct. 11.
Registration, however, is only the first step. As noted above, often less than half of registered local voters actually exercise their right to vote. Texas has generous provisions for early voting, including voting by mail. Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 24 and runs through Friday, Nov. 4. Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
You must also spend time educating yourself on who will best serve the needs of the people, and preserve and protect our republic at the local, state and federal levels. An informed voter is critical if we want to safeguard America.
Take the time to learn about the candidates and their issues. Then do your part and cast an informed vote.
Dennis. E. Nixon is chairman and CEO of IBC Bank.