Although candidates for local elections are not as heavily covered on national media outlets as federal candidates are, their decisions affect citizens’ daily lives much more directly. Local government influences aspects of city life such as public transit, policing and public safety, rent costs, affordable housing, city colleges and job training programs.
“While people pay more attention to the bigger picture because when you turn on the national news it focuses on what’s happening in Washington, it’s actually the stuff that’s happening in your community that will impact you first,” said Olivia Ide, AP U.S. History teacher at Ursuline.
The 2016 election contributed greatly towards the divisiveness of U.S. politics. Many citizens did not vote because the extreme opposition between two candidates’ policies often left the voter without a clear choice if they did not agree wholly with one side. In contrast, local elections provide a chance for voters to have more control over policies.
Local elections offer a variety of candidates, rather than just the two for a presidential election. Policies closer to home tend to be ones that have tangible effects, allowing those who vote in local elections a greater say in policies involved with their day-to-day lives.
Many landmark federal policies have started at the local level. Our history demonstrates through policies such as women’s voting rights, minimum wage and environmental protection that the changes we want to see nationwide can happen from the ground up.
Many individuals still hesitate to vote in local elections because they feel their single vote is insignificant. However, this sort of thinking is borderline myth.
According to Medium, “Just 1 in 5 voters participate in off-year local elections — meaning your vote at the local level can have an even bigger impact. For example, on just one election day in Ohio, 7 local issues were decided by just 1 vote.”
Even if your vote does not become the majority vote, by visiting the ballot office and voting you still have accomplished an important action: exercising your right to vote.
“For such a small thing, I leave, and I feel like I’ve done something. Even if my voice isn’t the voice that comes out on top in the end, I have stated where I stand,” said Ide.
According to the Pew Research Center, only 55.7 percent of people who were of-age voted in 2016. This puts the U.S. in 26th place out of the 32 members in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) most of which are highly developed, democratic states.
“I think people generally need to be more engaged,” said Ide. “I love that quote ‘If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.’”
A large part of being a responsible voter is knowing what issues are important to you. For local elections, take some time to inform yourself about local issues and candidates. Taking 30 minutes out of a whole weekend to do research could make a direct impact on your life if you then make an informed decision at the polls.
As high school students, we are fast approaching or already are of-age to vote. As responsible voters, besides exercising our right in national elections, we should remember to participate in local elections, too.
Image courtesy of Glamour