OPINION | EDITORIAL: March 5 is coming, get busy and vote!

Early voting starts Tuesday.

That gives you plenty of time to make your way to the Jefferson County Courthouse, where the very able and kind people in the clerk's office and, down the hall at the voting machines, folks will guide you through the process. At the end of it, you'll likely get one of those "I Voted" stickers that you can wear around, thereby eliciting comments like "Oh, I need to do that," and "What, there's an election?!"

Hopefully, there won't be too many of that latter one, given the visual cues outside. Way before the jonquils started popping up, campaign signs were sprouting out of the ground. Just one or two at first, but now they are everywhere, each one a testament to someone's earnest effort to lead. And each one a representation of an outlay of cash that someone had to raise.

On that note, campaigns, like everything else, are expensive. And they are time consuming and exhausting. And we're not sure the pay covers the work and responsibility. One Southeast Arkansas mayor -- someone who said he could make more money working for his family's business -- said a man approached him and said he might run against the sitting mayor. The elected official said he told the man if he waited a bit, the man wouldn't have an opponent -- at least not from the current occupant of the job.

Did we mention that races are exhausting? There have been any number of forums held for the various races. The candidates have to sit or stand for lengthy periods of time, taking question after question, trying their best to put some distance between them and their competitor or competitors. One candidate said a bathroom break would have been appreciated. Duly noted.

The biggest race locally is the one for mayor. The oddball way this ends up working here is that the winner of the primary is likely the overall winner, likely being the keyword. All the people running for mayor at the moment are running in the Democratic primary. There are no Republicans running for mayor -- at least not as Republicans. The winner of the Democratic primary will face others perhaps -- two have said they will file -- in the November General Election, but at this point, their chances look low.

The other point to note is that it does not take 50% of the vote, plus one vote, to win the primary. That, of course, only comes into play when there are more than two candidates running for the same position. In the mayor's race, there are six people running. In the primary, if someone wins 40% of the vote and that person's next nearest challenger is more than 20% below the top vote-getter, the top vote-getter is the winner. If the number two person is within that 20% threshold, then there is a runoff.

It was in this way that Debe Hollingsworth beat incumbent Carl A. Redus Jr. for mayor in 2012. In the primary, she received less than 50% of the vote, but Redus received less than 20%, giving Hollingsworth the win. Had there been a runoff, would enough of the non-Hollingsworth voters in the nine-candidate field have voted for Redus to re-elect him? Maybe, but that's not the way the primaries work.

The point is that those running for office have laid it out there in one way or another, and they deserve your consideration.

The other point is that your vote is important. Because Pine Bluff has a mayor-council form of government, the mayor is the top executive, so you are basically voting for the top CEO of the city. Are you ready to punch Mayor Shirley Washington's ticket for a third four-year term? Or do you pick Sam Glover, Rep. Vivian Flowers, Charles Washington, Joni Alexander-Robinson or Council Member Steven Mays Sr.?

And let's not forget about the other races involved. If you think the race for Justice of the Peace positions don't matter, consider the dysfunction of county government across the whole of 2023.

Get busy and be quick about it. Election day itself is March 5. You have work to do.

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