It’s tough to pay attention to politics while beaches beckon and the beauty of our national and state forests and parks offers relaxation, recreation and adventure. With baseball, softball, family reunions, concerts and cookouts, it’s hard to think about politics.

But, amid sizzling barbecue and icy beer, politics lurk just below the radar in this off year – a year of war and economic anxiety.

Recently, Code Pink, a women’s peace group, met on a two-iced-tea summer evening in my Western Pennsylvania town to talk about voter registration for this November’s election, which features local races.

Code Pink members are not politicos who study returns, calculate margins of victory, monitor candidates or run to meetings. They are small business – very small – operators, mothers, nurses, non-profit workers, bank workers, waitresses and students. They punch computers and “handle” customer service for major corporations. Yes, it’s summertime and the livin’ is somewhat easier, but they decided that next year is too long to wait for voter registration. Family, neighbors, friends and co-workers have to be signed up now for there to be peace in 2005. Bush pulled the trigger on Iraq, despite U.S. and world public opinion, and he is out to raise $200 million to buy 2004 to feed the flames of endless war. Only the people can stop the money and the people have to be registered, educated and mobilized to vote. It’s a big job and we’d best get started.

The women noticed that, much like the invasion of Iraq, our elections are shrouded in mis-information, no-information, lies and intimidation. Mention of Florida 2000 sparked anger, disgust, and nods that we, the regular people, have to pay attention and act. All are needed on board to defeat Bush in 2004, and the Bushettes in 2003. We cannot let it be as close as it was in 2000. There are thousands, probably millions who could have voted and didn’t or couldn’t. We’ve got to start now.

With the deepening budget crisis in our county, Allegheny County, at the Board of Elections staffing, training, machine maintenance, voting locations, postage, computers, legal expertise and even desks are on the chopping block.

Quietly, the Republican county executive ordered 92,000 voters purged from the rolls in April this year, just before the May primary. Not coincidentally, his political fate, and that of thousands of other Republicans embedded in the system, will be decided in the November 2003 election – that’s this November: the off-year, odd-numbered-year local election; the no-profile election; the “who are these people and why should I care” election.

We need political action – from voter registration to voter education – in 2003. We can’t wait until 2004. The apparatus to elect a president – the source of most of the problems with the system – is determined at the local and state level, and that’s what this year’s contests are about. For instance, in Pennsylvania, who gets to vote is decided by a Common Pleas Court judge. Those judges are elected, and a bunch of them will be elected in November 2003. Does that matter? You betcha.

The Code Pink women are filling their water bottles, packing their pens, pulling out their clipboards, shopping for sunscreen and hitting the parks, playgrounds, concerts and bus stops to register voters for this November’s election. They are keeping tabs on the county Board of Elections. They are raising money. They have a volunteer list for “Bush Busters.”

Wait for 2004? “I don’t think so,” says Code Pink.

Denise Winebrenner-Edwards is a member of the Borough Council, Wilkinsburg, Penn., and a member of the editorial board of the People’s Weekly World. She can be reached at DWinebr696@aol.com