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Our view: Local government is key to our lives, so vote

By The Editorial Board
updated: 3/10/2017 8:49 AM

Traditional voter registration for the April 4 consolidated local election ended on Tuesday, but you aren't out of luck if you want to vote for your local municipal, school, park, library, fire districts and township boards.

Electronic, or online voting with the Illinois State Board of Elections will continue through March 19 at

Another way to be represented at the ballot box is through something called "grace period registration" at your county government center. With grace period registration, a person registers to vote, and then votes, all at the same time. If you avail yourself of grace period registration, be prepared to vote when you go.

Why is this important?

Local officials -- the ones who are your friends and neighbors -- make decisions that affect your life in fundamental ways. A few examples:

● The biggest part of your property tax bill -- as much as 75 percent in some places -- goes to local schools, including community colleges. Even if you don't have children in the schools, the quality of those schools has a direct impact on your home's value, not to mention the overall health of your community. As well, how much the school boards levy in property taxes each year has a direct effect on what you pay.

● Mayors, city council commissioners, village board members and other municipal officials control how many police officers your community has, how frequently your roads are maintained and how aggressively the community pursues economic development -- among many other things.

● The quality and availability of library materials; the effectiveness of your fire protection and in some cases the availability of parks and other recreation opportunities -- all are determined by people who run for these offices.

The best thing you can do as a citizen is inform yourself about candidates running for your local offices. What do they stand for? What are they promising to do? Are they over-promising? Do they have the judgment you think is required to hold office?

Do your due diligence on referendums, too. What are the pros, and what are the cons?

Citizenship comes with responsibility. The candidates have promised to do the heavy lifting once they are elected; your job is to make sure the most-capable ones get there.