Make Sure You Are An Informed Voter This Election Season

As the presidential primaries head from times of rhetoric and polling to a time of actual voting, the 2016 election is entering a new phase. Soon the election bandwagon will make its stop in Florida. On Tuesday, March 15, the same time Florida’s Democrats and Republicans will finally have their say, voters in the western communities will be taking part in municipal elections on the same ballot. That means that the low turnout that usually marks local elections will almost certainly get a big boost. This makes it all the more necessary for voters to get informed — especially voters who don’t usually keep up on local issues. While the national media keeps its focus on the national horse race (there will be 13 Republicans and three Democrats on Florida’s statewide primary ballots), local media is the place to go to find out about candidates for office in Wellington, Royal Palm Beach and Loxahatchee Groves.

First, the basics: are you registered? The deadline to register to vote in the March 15 election is Tuesday, Feb. 16, which means if you are at least 18 years of age, you have only a few weeks left to make yourself eligible to cast a ballot. You can download an application from the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections web site (, fill one out in person at the Supervisor of Elections office (240 S. Military Trail, West Palm Beach) or call the office at (561) 656-6200.

There are two seats up for grabs on the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council: challenger Todd McLendon and incumbent Jim Rockett are seeking Seat 2, while incumbent Dave Browning and challenger Thais Gonzalez are vying for Seat 4.

Royal Palm Beach has three seats on the ballot. Running for mayor are current Councilman Fred Pinto and former Councilwoman Martha Webster. Incumbent Jeff Hmara is facing off against Lenore White for Seat 1, while Seat 3 pits incumbent Richard Valuntas against Selena Smith.

The Village of Wellington has two contested seats on the ballot. In the mayor’s race, incumbent Mayor Bob Margolis is being challenged by Councilwoman Anne Gerwig, while Michael Drahos is challenging incumbent John Greene for Seat 1. Also up for consideration are three charter amendment proposals: whether the village charter should be amended to include a provision protecting the Equestrian Preserve Area; whether the council should appoint community members to its canvassing board to avoid single or even membership; and whether motels, hotels, condo-hotels and apartments should be prohibited within the Equestrian Preserve Area.

Studies have shown that topics debated locally tend to impact voters more directly than those on the national scale. Leading up to the March election, there will be plenty of information about each candidate and their views released in the media, including here on the pages of the Town-Crier. Beyond newspapers, many of these candidates will reach out to voters directly through web sites, Facebook pages and direct mail pieces. There are also likely to be a number of candidate forums, where voters will get to see and hear from candidates in person. One such opportunity will be held Monday, Feb. 22, when the Town-Crier hosts a candidates forum at the Royal Palm Beach Village Meeting Hall beginning at 7 p.m. The forum will be televised on RPB’s Channel 18, but residents are welcome to attend and submit questions for the candidates.

We believe that informed voters make better voters when it comes to making decisions that impact local taxes, regional growth and the overall citizenship of our communities. No matter where and how you get your election news, make a point to be informed about the candidates and the issues. Then make sure to vote. It may be cliché, but it is true: one vote truly can make a difference.