OPINION: Voters Should Focus More On Local Elections than National Ones

OPINION: Voters Should Focus More On Local Elections than National Ones

Story | Shaelee Haaf

Graphic | Isabella Scott

With every presidential election that passes, the candidates seem to become less and less palatable. Races within the past several years have been described as a “dumpster fire,” a “train wreck” or simply downright embarrassing.

Although a record-breaking 139 million voters took part in the 2016 election, 14 states saw more voters participate in senate races than the presidential race according to Business Insider. Data from the United States Election Project showed that 2.4 million voters cast their ballots, but left the presidential line blank.

Voter turnout for national elections has always been significantly higher than primaries, midterm or local elections, but some people express they feel their vote doesn’t count for a number of reasons when in fact, it matters much more than they think, especially when it comes to smaller elections.

If you recall 2015, there was a short time when an independent, third-party candidate called ‘Deez Nuts’ showed up on the Public Policy Polling surveys in Iowa, Minnesota and North Carolina. While Nuts only came in around 9%, the fact that he made it onto the polls in the first place goes to show people have the power to make change.

Statistically speaking, your vote is more likely to “count” in off-year or local elections, because there are less people casting their ballots and results in you making up a larger percentage of the voter base.

If you grew up watching “Schoolhouse Rock,” one you have good taste and two, you’d certainly be familiar with the iconic “I’m Just a Bill” song. Anytime someone with significant governmental power makes a decision in the capital, it doesn’t happen right off the bat. The system of checks and balances means a number of people will review it before a final decision is made, and as the catchy three-minute tune describes, it’s a “long, long wait while sitting in committee.”

It’s rare that a law is passed in which every single state, city and town in the U.S. must follow to a T. Congress often takes their sweet, sweet time making decisions (too many cooks in the kitchen, right?). One of the only instances they’ve made an efficient, unanimous decision was choosing to send out the stimulus checks amid the pandemic. 

Change starts small. The decisions of mayors and council members (who are elected by the people) impact citizens in a more immediate and direct way than decisions coming out of Washington D.C. Local officials direct the day-to-day operations of schools, parks, libraries and infrastructures around the city among other issues like where taxpayer money is allocated. 

As this year’s presidential election becomes all the more eyebrow-raising, astounding and befuddling, consider putting more effort into understanding the candidates and issues surrounding your community.

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