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Heart of the Matter
Be prepared
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Just in case you thought voting next Tuesday would be a breeze, take a peek at the sample ballot that arrived in your mailbox last week. Voting 2004 is about a whole lot more than Bush or Kerry; Castor or Martinez. There is a whole bunch of stuff on that ballot.

In some places, like Indian Rocks Beach, decision-making will be more time consuming than others.

My advice would be to find a comfortable chair, put your feet up, and review the issues and races ahead of time. Try to decide now. It’s a good idea to mark your choices and take the sample ballot with you to the polls, just in case nothing makes sense on Tuesday.

I cringe when someone says they will decide how to vote when they get to their polling location. Are they crazy? Those people are sure to hold up the rest of us, taking their sweet time trying to make heads or tails of Amendment such-and-such as the minutes drag on. There is a five-minute time limit for voting, which would be practically impossible to enforce this election, and poll workers don’t make a habit of timing voters, anyway.

Meantime, lots of early voters wishing to avoid the election day stampede have already found out that nothing will be quick and easy this time around. I met one lady who voted last Saturday at the Dunedin Library. She waited in line for two hours. Afterward, she went shopping. I hope she treated herself to something extravagant. She deserved it.

Back to the ballot.

You say you don’t care for Bush or Kerry? No problem. We have eight choices for President. One candidate wants to do away with the IRS. Here, here! Of course, he has about as much chance as you or I do of being elected President.

We are given the opportunity to decide on eight constitutional amendments, five county charter amendments, school board referendum, county commission, sheriff, judicial, local races and issues. Decided, yet?

Forget all those incessant and misleading campaign ads. All the hype just clouds the issues. Most of the ballot language is fairly easy to understand. Anyone with a bit of sense will get through them. Just do the homework.

Have pity on Indian Rocks Beach voters. They face 17 charter amendments. Well, really there are 16, but they skipped No. 13, and still numbered them through 17. (I was sorry I asked.) Anyway, the ballot demands a lot of the typically laid-back IRB dweller who really couldn’t care less about stuff like “procedures for the enactment of ordinances and resolutions.” Most beach residents I know care more about where to find stone crabs than whether the vice mayor should be called vice mayor-commissioner. Still, that’s on there, so I guess it matters to a few people.

The Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue tax referendum calls for a good deal of soul searching. This divisive issue has gotten rather ugly. It’s a shame how some choose to go about the business of change. Fire service is so important, and has gotten muddied in nasty personal attacks. One thing is certain. Whichever way it goes, those responsible will be held accountable down the road.

Long lines notwithstanding, I’ll wait and vote on Election Day. It just seems right.

Winners or losers, we are all in this together. Our common ground is the right to be heard.

Chary Southmayd is the editor of the Belleair Bee and Entertainment Extra!.
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