Guest Column: Local elections are more important than you may think

By Debbie Simmons, owner of Shelbie Print & Copy, Inc.

Presidential elections get a lot of attention here in the I-4 corridor, but despite having major implications for local business owners, workers and their families, local elections are all too often ignored by voters. It’s time to change that.

As owner of Shelbie Press Print & Copy, I know how local elections can have a dramatic effect on my company and the community where we choose to live and do business. I’ve seen how failing to vote in local elections greatly diminishes your power as a voter.

Yes, voting for President and Congress is important – it affects you whether we go to war, stop offshore corporate tax dodging or appoint new Supreme Court judges.

Your vote is a thousand times more powerful in local elections: In 2012, 129 million people voted in the presidential election.  In the last Orange County election only 129 thousand people voted. That’s one thousand times the voting power!

More importantly, local government sets policies that most directly impact you where you live. The makeup of city hall, fair taxes and economy-boosting public investments, local school boards, fire and police leadership, getting that annoying pothole down the street filled — all this and more are largely shaped by local elections. Simply put, local government has a direct impact on your quality of life.

Sadly, however, many voters tune out local elections altogether. One reason is that local offices are voted on during the primaries when fewer independent voters go to the polls. Another reason is that voters feel disenfranchised by local politics. This may be particularly true here in Orange County.

Take the popular campaign to guarantee all workers can earn sick time.  Imagine how much more economically secure the economy would be if working mothers didn’t have to worry about losing their job to stay home with a sick child. Families under this kind of economic pressure can’t be good consumers for small business.

Government is supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people, and poll after poll showed that Earned Sick Time is hugely popular with voters.  But Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Commissioner Fred Brummer and others were caught red-handed conspiring with corporate lobbyists – in what has been dubbed “Text-Gate” – to derail the will of the people on Earned Sick Time.  Brummer has now offered up a cynical ploy designed to rob local citizens of the ability to effectively petition our government.

The powerful corporate interests at the center of the “Power Grab” and “Text-Gate” scandals endeavor to tilt the playing field in their favor at the expense of locally owned businesses and the community.  And they’re counting on us letting them get away with it by not showing up to vote in an often ignored local primary election.  By choosing to join the “VOTE LOCAL” campaign you bring that power back to Orange County voters.

VOTE LOCAL has mounted a public information campaign to ensure Orange County citizens fully participate in our upcoming local elections and beyond. This August 26, Orange County will vote on County Mayor, Commission, Clerk of Court, School Board and Earned Sick Time. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is August 20 at 5 p.m.

If outside corporate interests think local races are important enough to spend time and money on, shouldn’t you? It’s time for local citizens to protect local businesses and our community. VOTE LOCAL so we can take back our local government starting August 26th.


Debbie Simmons is a very special small business owner (Shelbie Print & Copy), and as a long-time LGBT activist knows personally the power that local elections have in changing the lives of real people right where we live. She is a member of the Main Street Alliance. 
Debbie was recently recognized by Rep. Alan Grayson with her life story read into the Congressional Record. 


  1. A didactic tone like this is peculiar in this venue. Has anyone who reads this blog skipped any elections–special,, primary or general? This editorial belongs in a place where people are not focused. I do not understand the audience. Send this to the state newspapers.
    The problem is that people move to Florida from elsewhere and do not take the time to understand the structure of elections and voting. Also, there is no general coverage of local races and one must go to public forums.Lack of civic engagement is fostered by the media’s lack of coverage. The best paper for local coverage in Tampa is La Gaceta which features backstories on candidates. Look for the union bug.


  2. an observer · ·

    Often people willingly volunteer for top of the ticket races and ignore the local races. The feeling that is generated is “I am doing important work.” Often the top of the ticket races block the local volunteer from working on the local races. I will maintain that the positions that impact the you and me and everyone else are those small races – the local races. It is here that people develop and grow into larger positions. Putting up viable candidates for these positions should be the primary thrust of the county organizations. Yet how races will be settled this year without a viable Democrat running for the position?


  3. […] ink on Orange County’s Vote Local effort including guest columns by Stephanie Porta and Debbie Simmons . The effort culminated with a remarkable increase in early and absentee turnout for the August 26th […]


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