Graduate to next level: a voter

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May brings the excitement of graduations for family friends and neighbors. The higher education campus has already graduated more than 200 from LCSC and U of I and NIC graduates will walk on May 15. Though many local students should now be deep into the books preparing for exams, I want to raise another very important activity for recent and soon-to-be grads: voting. High school seniors in particular should be looking forward to exercising your new right as an adult. Whether you are a new voter or not, the General Obligation Bond and other basic initiatives on this ballot provide a great first voting experience. The issues on the ballot are clear and you will find lots of information available to help you understand what is on the ballot so that you can make informed voting decisions.

Graduates, I am appealing to your good sense to get out and vote on behalf of the community-driven CDA 2030 Vision project (CDA2030.org). This project collected visionary input from many thousands of citizens of greater Coeur d'Alene. Many of the action items called out in the Health and Safety topic area of the CDA2030 Implementation Plan will be impacted by the General Obligation Bond that is on this ballot. More generally, instilling a sense of civic responsibility and community involvement is a key point of agreement from this broad reaching visioning project. Your fellow citizens really want you to educate yourself on what is on the ballot and then to GO VOTE!

Voting at your neighborhood polling place will occur on May 19. You can vote early too, just stop by the election office on 3rd street, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Do it after school today; early voting ends on May 15. The May 19, 2015 ballots are straightforward. They will include any of the following depending on your district, as indicated on the Kootenai County Elections website:

* Coeur d'Alene School District 271, Excision & Annexation

* Coeur d'Alene School District 271, Trustee Zone 3

* City of Coeur d'Alene, General Obligation Bond

* Bayview Water & Sewer Board Members, 4 & 5

* East Side Highway District, Sub-district 1

* Lakes Highway District, Sub-district 3

* Post Falls Highway District, Sub-districts 1, 2, & 3

Voters in Kootenai County who reside in these taxing districts, or in the city of Coeur d'Alene are eligible to vote in this election.

I referred to your right to vote; you'll remember from your US History class that this right was hard fought and is the very foundation of our society and system of government. Sadly though, most of your fellow citizens do not make the effort to get out and vote. In 2014, fewer than 40 percent of eligible Idaho voters participated in elections! Such poor turnout is not likely to represent the majority opinion. That is a dangerous prospect, I'm betting that as a new voter, you'll want to make sure our elections are representative and that your voice is heard.

I am appealing to first-time voters to turn these woefully low election participation rates around. I'm not alone, your fellow citizens of all ages are asking you to engage in this civic responsibility! Eighteen year olds and first-timers, encourage and to expect each other to participate as an informed voter. Think of voting as your sacred duty and as your responsibility to our society. Don't put it off thinking that this may be an unimportant election; you can start with this election to develop voting as a habit - one you will never want to break. The rest of us need your good example.

Charles Buck, PhD, is University of Idaho's associate vice president and center executive officer for Northern Idaho.

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