First, actually go and do it. Better yet, bring a few others with you.
That's not an attempt at humor, but a sincere suggestion. Turnout is disturbingly low in municipal elections, so your vote and the votes of a few friends really matter. Proportionally, your vote has greater impact in low turnout elections, giving real meaning to the old saying “every vote counts”.
Second, be selective in how you cast your ballot.
That may sound obvious, but many people often make a mistake in at-large contests like the races for municipal boards where you can vote for multiple candidates. For example in Davidson and Cornelius, you can vote for up to five Board candidates and in Huntersville up to six. However, just because you can vote for a full slate of candidates does not mean you must.
In this scenario, the sharpest arrow in the voter’s quiver is called the “single shot” vote.
Single shot, or bullet voting, is a tactic where you only vote for one candidate rather than a full slate. It is a tactic often used by minority communities to get a candidate elected from the minority community even when their overall numbers are not a majority of voters. It works by withholding votes from other candidates that would have otherwise been cast – giving that single vote a higher proportional value.
The same effect to a lesser degree can be achieved by voting for two or three candidates instead of five or six. The basic idea is to just not give away votes to candidates that you don't agree with on major issues.
In Davidson and Cornelius most incumbents are going to win reelection anyway because only six candidates are running for five seats. In those towns you may want to just vote for enough candidates to gain a majority on the board, or three candidates. Alternatively, if you definitely want new blood, then only vote for one challenger.
In Huntersville, gaining a majority would require four. You could vote for three board members and make your selection in the Mayor’s race based on who you want to be the tie-breaker. Local mayors only vote in the event of a tie.
Huntersville is the only municipality in North Mecklenburg with a contest for Mayor this year. However, even in Cornelius and Davidson you have a “choice”. If you are in either of those towns and don't like how your Mayor is doing things, leave the race blank. Don't just give away your vote if you don't think they deserve it. While the amount of the “undervote” usually does not make the news, if the percentage of blank votes or write-ins in the uncontested mayors’ races was high enough that would certainly send a message.
In truth, many of the candidates in all of these races hold similar positions on the smaller issues facing the towns. Voting for candidates based on their stands on the big issues is where the differences lie. Whether it be something like the I77 HOT lanes or the Catalyst Project in Davidson, voting based on these issues is where you get the most impact.
Finally, there is one item on everyone’s ballot that will impact your future votes - the referendum to extend terms from two years to four on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners starting with the next election. If you believe elected officials should be held accountable to the voters more often, then definitely vote “NO” on that item.
The last two times Mecklenburg voters have been asked this question, it failed. Keeping that trend alive, protects the power of your vote for years to come.
If you haven't done so already, early voting continues through Saturday. Election Day is Tuesday, November 3rd.
This column first appeared in this week's Herald Weekly at HuntersvilleHerald.com.