When I look at the percentage difference between those who vote in national and state elections, compared to those who vote in local and county elections I’m always amazed at the huge disparity.
Sadly, only about 58% of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2016 general election, but that figure is about five times higher than the percentage of residents who vote in local elections.
Evidently, the massive amount of money spent on state and federal elections pay for a plethora of political ads which keep voters in touch with the candidates and their issues. Contrarily, on the local level, residents must attempt to inform themselves about those soliciting their votes.
During the last month or two of a local plebiscite, voters will be inundated with snail mail filled with campaign literature extolling the virtues of one candidate, while besmirching opposing candidates.
That’s not the best way to educate oneself about those who will be governing us for the next few years. Yet, most people don’t seem to realize how important their local votes are. The fact is, there is no level of government more directly responsible for serving your day-to-day community needs than your local elected officials.
Local government can affect almost every aspect of your daily life. For example, county commissioners adopt the budget and set the tax rate; set salaries and benefits for employees and maintain county roads and bridges, just to name a few of their functions. The governing philosophy of those you vote for may have a profound effect on the quality of life in your area.
Similarly, voting for your local school board can determine the quality of education received by your children. On a town or city level, the mayor and council members influence the growth of your community through housing construction, commercial establishments, parks and recreation centers and many other areas of concern to residents.
Knowing the background and viewpoints of those you vote into office will have a major impact on your living conditions for the foreseeable future. If you can muster up the passion for state and federal candidates, you should double that passion for municipal candidates, because they are the ones who will be governing you up close.
Moreover, by staying in touch with decisions by local officials you’re more able to hold them accountable by attending meetings at town halls to voice your opinions. Paying attention to what’s going on in local government pays residual dividends for your community going forward.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local elections, which have traditionally been held on the first Saturday in May, will now be included in federal and state elections on November 3. This means we will be casting votes all the way from President down to school board and town council candidates. Please don’t stop after voting for the federal and state candidates! Go all the way down the ballot and vote for those who most closely represent your immediate needs.