Why it’s time for us to start being more vocal about voting local


Courtesy/James Lacefield

The few voters who support their local candidates can be quite passionate, it’s time for us all to get involved in local government

James Lacefield, Opinion Editor

It is nearly that glorious Tuesday that comes once every odd year when all five hundred local retirees will leave their crosswords and daytime talk shows for a brief moment to decide which candidates are worthy of running your hometown. Meanwhile, the rest of us go about our daily lives at work or school, and only find something to complain about when we go down to the DMV, try to pull a permit to remodel our homes, park on the wrong side of the street after a snowstorm, try to avoid the detours during construction season, or the countless other issues we experience in our daily lives which are all controlled by our local governments.  Without any state or federal elections occurring in most voting districts, this year’s ballots will be almost exclusively for city council, school committee, and mayor, relatively low hanging fruit in the governmental orchard.

However, it is precisely these elected officials who will have the most sway over how we live, coexist, and thrive in our hometowns. These elected officials are the ones who are the most responsive to their constituents, because they are living and working in the same community they represent, not hundreds of miles away in some mahogany furnished office. These local officials want the best for their communities because they will be able to walk down the street and greet the people who actually attend events in the newly refurbished community center or enjoy watching their children  participate in school sporting events. Yet these local officials are often hated by the majority of townies. Maybe the majority would be more satisfied with their local government if the majority of adult citizens actually voted in local elections.

Local races often see abhorrently low levels of voter turnout, especially in odd years with no federal or state elections. Among those who do show up to the polls, the vast majority are elderly citizens who actually have the time to keep up with local politics, while middle-aged and younger voters simply let the opportunity to cast what may be the most important ballot of any election cycle pass them by.

Federal and state elections are often settled with margins in the thousands of votes, simply because these offices represent such large populations. However, local elections can often be settled by hundreds, even tens of votes, which means one single ballot either way can have a dramatic impact. Local elections are the place for people to be heard more as an individual than as a cog in a political machine. The determination of the mayor, city council, and school board, will determine how the place you and your neighbors will live, work, recreate, eat, and learn. While the federal government has the power to wage war against a foreign nation you have never held a grudge against, or make a deal with a far away government to purchase fuel which you will never fill your gas tank with, your local government has the power to build a park where you may want to take your dog for a walk, or put on a community event where you may find an opportunity to volunteer and help your neighbors in need. So, is it really right to ignore local elections the way we have been for so many years?

When one voice can actually be heard in the ballot box, and that one ballot has the power to change an entire community for the better, it is tragic to think that anybody would neglect their civic duty. Sure, you may vote for your party’s senator or presidential candidate when the time comes, but you need to vote for your neighborhood’s councilmember right now! This is where we can make a difference, this is where we can build a better community and a better life for ourselves, our families, and our neighbors. If there is an election happening in your hometown, I sincerely hope you vote.