When most people think about voting, they probably think about voting for the President. Every four years, and leading up to a presidential election year, there is a huge push for people to register to vote and to become more involved and aware of politics.
While it is important to vote for the highest office, the changes that will affect us more immediately and often closer to home come from voting locally.
Local governments manage a large variety of issues and their decisions on these will directly impact the life of citizens in their towns and cities. Local school quality, policing and public safety, public transit, alcohol and drug ordinances, rent costs and affordable housing are among some of the important aspects of life that are decided by local government officials.
Especially in times of divisiveness and when we are seeing instances of police brutality, it highlights how important it is to know who we are voting for locally. As mentioned above, the important issue as to how police funding is managed, and local justice systems come down to local officials. It’s important to know who stand in positions of power and how they will respond to situations of injustice. These are all people that you can vote for.
Another more recent example of local government impacting communities can be seen in responses to COVID-19. Although Kansas Governor Laura Kelly created a mandate for facemasks, the decision came down to local counties. The health of communities was decided by local officials, not those in Topeka or Washington.
Since local elections are smaller, your vote makes more of a difference. Your voice can truly be heard and have an even bigger impact. For example, according to cleveland.com, on one election day in Ohio, seven local issues were decided by just one vote.
Voting at a local level gives you the opportunity to vote on issues you’re truly passionate about and can influence them in your community.
Additionally, local politics help shape federal policy. As states debate issues and reshape laws, other states and later the nation may begin implementing similar reforms over time.
Now more than ever, as college students, it’s important to make our voice heard. According to Politifact, today’s youth, people aged 18 to 29, turnout at polls is significantly lower than older groups. Young voters consistently make up the smallest share of all voters when looking at four age groups of 18 to 29, 30 to 44, 45 to 59 and 60+.
Young voters account for half the voting population, meaning we have the potential to be extremely influential in this country. Imagine that influence closer to home and in your own community.
However, the older population are the largest group to go out and vote. If you ever find yourself complaining about outdated views or beliefs on issues, you can make a difference by going out and voting and ensuring change happens and we’re not stuck with old policies.
Local voting takes place every year, and their implications are long lasting. So, take the time to get to know what’s going on in your community, county, and state and make your voice heard.