Local officials deserve greater public attention to increase voter turnout

A student (pictured above) votes at Kuhl Gymnasium on-campus on Nov. 7. It is imperative that more individuals become educated on local politics and become more involved in electing officials in their own towns and districts. (Annalee Bainnson/ Photo Editor)

When we think of being politically active in the United States, often the first thought that crosses our minds is voting for the president. While it is important to contribute to national elections, it is even more crucial to participate in local elections. 

In order to serve our best interests, each and every one of us must exercise our right to vote in local elections, as “too often, voting is seen as something that occurs once every four years—and that needs to change. Local elections are taking place every year and their implications are long lasting,” as reported by The Hill     

While many individuals are showing up for the major presidential elections, fewer and fewer people are voting in their local and state elections, according to Lesley Public Post.

It’s important to realize that a U.S. citizen’s day-to-day life is impacted far more by locally elected officials than by the president. For example, “our local public servants leverage our property tax dollars to make big budgetary decisions that influence our local communities, from education reforms to welfare and more,” according to The Hill. 

In other words, local representatives control the majority of the funding for entities and organizations that influence us every day. It’s critical in order to serve our own self-interests to elect someone that will fight for the change we desire.

In addition, local elections also have the power to help shape federal policies. Essentially, the federal government uses state governments as a trial run. If a particular policy works exceedingly well at the state level, the federal government may look into adopting it across the nation. By voting for legislators with similar ideals as our own, we play a major role in making changes on the local level that have the potential to reach the entire country.  

“Not voting in local elections allows for small groups whose interests may not align with the majority to commandeer local politics,” according to The Current. Basically, the interests reflected in the local vote may be unrepresentative of the majority because the voter turnout rate is so low. In order to have an accurate representative sample, everyone must vote.

Perhaps the problem here is not that people are actively choosing not to vote, but maybe they are just not properly educated on the importance of voting. It’s no secret that since the rise of the Internet, small, local news outlets—such as newspapers—are being deemed less relevant. This causes citizens to lose access to locally focused news. Therefore, it’s possible that voters are not even aware of who is running in their local elections, causing them not to vote. 

In addition, “Americans are too caught up in national and global news, as well as celebrity news. When people are consumed by only the national stories, they tend to forget what’s going on around them,” according to Lesley Public Post. 

Now more than ever, it is essential we elect representatives who reflect our own beliefs. In order to do so, we need to focus more on educating voters about local elections, not just national elections. In making these changes, we can be hopeful that more U.S. citizens will be inclined to vote in local elections.