On March 7, 2019, I attended a monthly meeting of the Rockdale Republicans GOP. At this meeting, I was able to observe and learn about how local government functions. People were able to voice their opinions about local elections and have them heard by the supervisor of elections for Rockdale County.
When I arrived at the Amici’s in Conyers, I was unsure of what to expect. The group met in the very back room of the restaurant and when me and my fellow classmate opened the door, we found a room full of about 25 men and women ranging in age from mid 30s to mid 70s. They all looked at us in disbelief that 2 young college girls would want to take part in a local Republican meeting. In fact, the man signing people in asked us if we were in the correct place. After sitting down Ms. Cynthia Willingham, Rockdale’s Supervisor of Elections, took the stage and began speaking to the crowd about recent changes in how elections are done in our county and House Bill 316. Rockdale County had been chosen to test a new ballad marking system back in November of 2017, and that system will now be implemented in all of Conyers.
Mrs. Willingham then opened the floor for questions and the people were allowed to speak their minds freely. They asked many tough questions and she provided honest and genuine answers. This is a perfect example of citizens using their 1st amendment rights. They have the freedom of speech and they were using it to express their ideas and views on House Bill 316. Many people disagreed with the bill bringing up concerns about absentee ballads and how this new bill allows anyone to turn in an absentee ballad for a person who was unable to vote at the polls. One man asked what’s to stop someone from going to different mail boxes, stealing ballads, and submitting them. She responded by explaining that the absentee must sign on the absentee ballad and that signature must match the signature on their voter registration card. If that signature does not match, then the ballad will not be counted, and the voter will be contacted by the Board of Elections and Voter Registration Office. The voter will then have the opportunity to correct the ballad.
This type of open dialogue is not common in many other parts of the world. In places like Germany, Saudi Arabi, and many other countries, speech is not protected under law. They do not govern themselves with a democratic system meaning the citizens do not have much say in their government.
Based on the age-range I saw when I entered the backroom of Amici’s, one might assume that Millennials are showing less support for democratic values than in years prior. Me and my classmate were the only According to Pippa Norris, author of “Is Western Democracy Backsliding? Diagnosing the Risks,” this has not been a consistent trend across Western democracies from the years 1972 to 2016. He continues by explaining that constitutionally, there is no evidence that the quality of institutions protecting political rights has deteriorated.
Overall, this experience is one that taught me how local government functions and opened my eyes to all the resources and information I have access to. There are many local political events like this one that I can take part in and I look forward to learning more about how government works on the local level.
For more information, visit Mrs. Willingham’s page at https://rockdalecountyga.gov/about/links/leadership-team/about-the-director/