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Opinion
Sarasota Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022 1 month ago

Excitement on Election Day

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Casting the ballot is a key ingredient to our liberty. Sarasota and Manatee candidates and constituents alike make it count.
by: Emily Walsh President and Publisher

While driving into work the morning of primary election day 2022, I passed St. Armands Key Lutheran Church, which serves as a polling station for Precincts 211 and 213. Sarasota City Commission candidate Carl Shoffstall stood outside shaking hands with voters clad in red, white and blue.

There’s something about election day, whether the primary or general, that brings an excitement to the air. Watching constituents exercise their right to vote brings about pride for our community and our democratic republic as a whole.

I love seeing social media posts with parents taking their children with them to the polls to vote. Or the proud parents whose child is now 18 and can officially vote in his or her first election. I love the “I Voted” stickers sported by adults who haven’t included stickers in their attire since elementary school.

By the time you read this column, the results of the 2022 primary elections will be out. But it’s worth acknowledging the efforts of what went into this year’s election.

First, we’ll take the newspaper perspective. That’s what we know best.

Sadly, as an increasing number of newspapers disappear, research has shown that communities that lack a local news source have more corrupt government. According to Northwestern University’s “The State of Local News 2022” report, “In communities without a credible source of local news, voter participation declines, corruption in both government and business increases and local residents end up paying more in taxes and at checkout.”

That is why we’re proud to serve as one of your local sources of information, providing candidate profiles in print and online. Longtime readers are all too familiar with Editor and CEO Matt Walsh’s recommendations and endorsements, a practice many news organizations don’t provide anymore. Whether you agree or disagree with his choices, the point is to spark discussion and new ideas.

“It’s difficult for so many people, with their busy lives of managing their families, jobs and businesses, to stay up to date on the candidates,” Walsh says. “So we think it’s one of the jobs of a newspaper to help our readers sort out some of the differences and nuances to the candidates. And when we make recommendations, I think our readers know we are recommending those candidates we think will do two things — defend and promote individual liberty and make people’s lives better.”

In our newsrooms, election coverage is almost always exciting. All of our journalists reporting election results are plied with pizza to tie them over into late hours, and our printer’s presses are on standby, holding back on preparing pages one and three of our papers until we send the final election results.

Circulating these election results can be quite scary as well. I’ll never forget that shortly after I became publisher in 2016, I received a phone call from our circulation manager at 5 a.m. the morning after the 2016 primary election when Tropical Storm Hermine was moving up the Gulf Coast of Florida.

“We can’t deliver the papers. It’s too dangerous,” he said.

“You have to get the papers out,” I frantically replied, “They have the election results!”

Luckily, it looks like the weather forecast includes only a few scattered thunderstorms for this week’s election result delivery. Of course, election results are posted and available on YourObserver.com in real time.

Sure, we’re all a bit sick of the direct mailers that stuff our mailboxes, the constant barrage of text messages received by political parties and PACs and the signs crowding our street corners. But you have to give credit to each and every single candidate who had the courage to run for public office. No matter your beliefs or party affiliate, the work that goes into campaigning for public office is daunting. And, quite honestly, thankless.

These individuals are offering up their time for public service for little pay to help make their communities a better place and make sure your voices are heard. But these campaigns can be draining with the attacks on their character in the media and by their opponents.

Florida Rep. Tommy Gregory, who will run for the newly drawn District 72 in the general election in November, once shared that in his first run for the State House 2018, his political adviser pulled him aside and told him that he shouldn’t take everything so personally and that public officials need to have thick skin.

Indeed, this year’s primary candidates had thick skin. Especially in the highly contested Sarasota County School Board race that brought Gov. Rick DeSantis here last weekend for a rally and the accusations of anti-Semitic remarks used in digital billboards campaigning against Lauren Kurnov.

If informed citizens make better communities, then it looks like Sarasota and Manatee counties’ citizens are engaged and passionate. Voter turnout in the 2020 primary election was more than 32%, which was the highest in Sarasota County in more than a decade. As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, voter turnout was already at 31.67%.

From someone who used to dress up like Susan B. Anthony as a kid, thanks for your vote. It counts.

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Emily Walsh is the president of Observer Media Group. She has served as publisher of the Observer Media Group’s Sarasota-based newspapers, magazines and websites since 2016. She joined the company in 2001 as a photographer for the Black Tie section of the Longboat Observer, later

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