Election Day is less than a month away. All registered voters on the Westside of Merced County will have the opportunity to cast their ballot. I hope a large number of these actually vote.

Voting is something we can’t take for granted. In the past hundred years many people throughout the world have struggled for the right to vote, and some have lost their lives in that quest. Everyone in the United States military has served to protect this freedom.

In recent years some politicians in the United States have gone on record saying that voting isn’t a good way to choose leaders. The “people” can’t be trusted, they’ve said. It reminds me of the 1950’s and 1960’s when dictators in many parts of the world, including all countries behind the Iron Curtain, said the same thing.

Los Banosans have three offices to vote for in the Nov. 8 election: a school board position, a city council office and the mayor’s position. The only position all voters in the city can vote for is the mayor’s office, where one person is on the ballot, and another has filed as a write-in candidate. For the other offices, only voters residing in a specific area or district will be casting a ballot.

Many Los Banosans can remember when a candidate in a city-wide election won by only a handful of votes. Today, the chances of a slim victory are even greater, now that school board trustees are elected by area and council members by district.

Voting in California is easier than ever. All registered voters have been mailed ballots that they can fill out, sign and return either by mail or in a drop-off location. I know many senior citizens who especially appreciate the ability to mail in their ballot. 

No voters today can say they couldn’t vote because they didn’t have time either to find their correct polling place or to drive there, wait in line and then fill out their ballot. There are no excuses for not voting.

Some people will say they’re not interested in voting because they can’t trust any of the people running. If that were the case, I’d suggest they at least choose the lesser of two evils. 

In Los Banos, however, we are fortunate to have people running for office simply because they feel it’s an opportunity to serve their fellow community members. I would hope that alone would encourage people to vote.

Even though Los Banos has grown fourfold since I moved here in 1971, it’s still a place where one elected person can make a difference, either by his or her ability to persuade others or by casting a deciding vote in a split board or council.

I admire all six people who are running for office in Los Banos. It takes courage to run and a lot of time to understand the issues and explain why they’re the superior candidate. I have avoided running for any elected office, primarily because I couldn’t put in the time required to run and, if I won, serve.

I’m pleased that all six Los Banos candidates responded to this paper’s request to provide a statement. It’s a way for all candidates to speak for themselves.

I wish someday we could return to a time when there were televised forums where voters could listen to all candidates present their viewpoints and respond to questions. Several years ago, for example, I moderated a forum run by the local League of Women Voters, an organization I appreciate and respect.

I encourage all Westside Express readers to reflect on the candidates’ statements in today’s paper, find any other ways to get to know the candidates and then cast a vote for the person they think would best represent them. It takes time and effort to do this, but casting a thoughtful vote is worth it, to the candidates and to the community. 

Speaking of thoughtful votes, I, like many other Californians, get easily puzzled by the propositions on the ballot, and this year it seems more puzzling than ever. I do appreciate that the state League of Women Voters each election gives its organization’s recommendations on propositions, which I carefully consider before voting.

At the risk of seeming redundant, I close by appealing to my readers to vote. Many people have given their lives for this right. Please don’t underestimate it or take it for granted.

John Spevak’s email is john.spevak@gmail.com.