In the United States, the pressure of voting seems to solely reside on presidential elections. It’s easy to believe that that is the most important time to vote, and when local elections come around, they can seem frivolous or less important, meaning that people don’t always feel the need to participate.
However, if you’ve paid any attention to social media lately, you have seen the whirlwind campaign of registering to vote. It seems everyone was on board with the necessity of making sure that if you can vote, you will. But why? What’s the big deal about these seemingly smaller elections?
At stake in the mid-term elections, federal elections which are held half-way between presidential elections, are 435 U.S. House seats and 33 U.S. Senate seats. Matters effected by these elections include which party controls the two chambers of Congress and who has oversight power of President Donald Trump and his administration for the next two years. The party in control of either chamber is the party most likely to get its proposed legislation passed in the chamber before it reaches the president for approval. That’s important, don’t you think?
Locally, voting will be deciding 6,665 state positions, including 36 state governors, three U.S. territory governors, hundreds of city mayors, and thousands of other positions and ballot initiatives, which affect the laws, taxes, and budgets of your state, county, or town.
Local elections affect changes in your state, county, or town which directly affect you. Things such as school district quality, rent cost and affordable housing, city colleges and job training programs, and policing and public safety are just a few of the hundreds of local issues which are at stake in local elections. Local government is the closest, most tangible form of change you can make in your life through voting, so it’s important to pay attention to what is going to be on your ballot, and to be informed about it.
While it may be frustrating to look at our government and feel as if nothing is going your way, or that your voice is not being heard, local government provides an outlet to vocalize your concerns and needs in a manner which receives more immediate attention or action. Local elections have a history of creating change at the grassroots level, before it reaches Washington. Ground-breaking policy change such as women’s suffrage, minimum wage, marriage equality and environmental protection all started at the local and state level before ever gaining federal action.
When nothing is happening at the federal level, and things seem to be in a constant state of stand-still, voting and taking action at the local level can hold your representatives more accountable, and help move things along.
In 2011, less than 21 percent of voting age citizens in 144 U.S. cities voted in their local elections, according to Governing Magazine. That means that less than a fifth of the population decided on their local politicians and decided on whatever initiatives were on their ballots. This gives a clear picture of how effective local elections can be, but also the importance of voter turnout. While that 21 percent got their vote, another 79 percent remained unrepresented simply because they did not exercise their right to vote. Your local politicians need to know how you feel about the issues mentioned earlier. If you desire change in your town, your ballot needs to reflect it.
You can check your state or local election for voting guidance by visiting USA.gov to search for your state or territory. By searching for your state or territory, you will be redirected to your state or territories’ secretary of state website, where you can find specific information about local and state elections including deadlines, election dates and general election information.
So, on Nov. 6, please show up. Better than that, show up and be informed. You cannot complain about something you haven’t tried to change. Cast your vote with the confidence that local elections actually do matter. They affect you more directly than you might think, which is why it’s more important than ever to know what you’re voting for and to go vote.
The Carrier’s editorial opinion represents the views of the senior members of the Campus Carrier and Viking Fusion news staff.