Our View: Halftime here for Illinois voters

Anyone familiar with football knows that halftime is important. While players take a breather, coaches assess the team’s first-half performance and make adjustments for the second half.

A few choice words, spoken by coaches at maximum volume, might accompany those adjustments.

Whether a team goes on to victory or defeat can often be traced to decisions made at halftime.

Similarly, voters find themselves at a halftime of a different sort. This week marked the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. In even-numbered years, it would be Election Day in Illinois. In odd-numbered years, the day marks the halfway point between one election and the next.

Maybe this electoral halftime is a good occasion to assess county, state and federal elected officials’ performance at the midway point between elections.

Are voters pleased with the performance of their county board? Do they think board members are spending their tax dollars wisely and conducting business in an open and honest fashion?

Do voters believe their countywide elected officials are doing a good job? Are they fulfilling their campaign promises to be conscientious, efficient, responsive public servants?

If not, voters should contact their elected officials and tell them what “halftime adjustments” need to be made.

On the state level, it might be harder to find voters who think the “first half” went well. Illinois’ government still owes its vendors billions of dollars. The public pension system remains underfunded to the tune of nearly $100 billion. Education and social services receive far less state funding than they should.

Whether voters can effect change on the state level is less certain, as gerrymandered districts protect incumbents from voter backlash, so elected officials have less reason to be responsive to the people.

Nationally, voters can’t be pleased with the continued dysfunction of the federal government, as exemplified by the 16-day partial government shutdown in October. Divided government (Democrats control the White House and Senate, Republicans control the House) can’t succeed without compromise and two winners of East Coast governor’s races – New Jersey Republican Chris Christie and Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe – talked about the need for bipartisanship in their victories Tuesday.

An opportunity for a “halftime adjustment” appears possible, if the bipartisan House-Senate negotiating panel on the budget, led by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, can find common ground and forge a budget agreement.

A year from now, voters will have big decisions to make on the county, state and federal level. By beginning to assess those decisions now, voters may better succeed in juggling the lineup of elected officials and incorporating new strategies. A successful halftime now could mean a victory for the people next November.