Welcome to the third and final blog about the importance of voting. With this one, I’d like to discuss the importance of local politics and why “down-ballot” issues and policies are so important to all of our daily lives. According to fairvote.org only about 60% of eligible voters in America vote in national elections, which is substantially lower than most developed western democratic countries. What may be more disappointing is that a mere 40% of eligible American voters actually turnout in midterm elections and even fewer show up for off-year elections that only pertain to local issues.
There is so much hype and media coverage when it comes to national elections, which makes sense given that those elections and potential leaders will represent all of us, not merely regions or communities. However, we often overlook how much local laws and community-related topics affect us and those closest to us.
Most people I’ve interviewed get riled up about the presidency and maybe occasionally a Senate race, but don’t even know who their Representative is in the US House of Representatives. One point that’s important to understand is that not only do locally-elected officials and local policies often have a more direct impact on our lives, but we also generally have a more direct impact on local officials and policies, compared to national elections. In local elections, we are dealing with smaller numbers of voters; therefore, one vote really can have a substantial difference on the outcomes, not to mention our sphere of influence being an even bigger contributing factor to election outcomes.
One tangible example of this can be taken from Virginia. A state delegate seat was won and lost by one single vote in one district. The Virginia House of Delegates faced a 50/50 split in their State House so this one district solely decided who would have the majority, and, in turn, would have control of statewide legislation and policy. In this case, it truly was one vote that mattered. There are also countless other cases of tight races that we saw up and down the ballot of both national elections and special elections. Every vote counts!
Whether it’s local or at the national level, the first step to understanding how you can vote to affect change in your communities and regions is knowing who represents your interest in government; their decisions affect your day-to-day-life. Don’t just blame or shame; GET INVOLVED!!! We have no right to complain about the state of the world if we are not doing anything about it. The idea of “writing your congress person” is not just an adage; it’s your right and responsibility as a free voter. In this political climate, it’s more important than ever to get involved. Our representatives not only want our input, but they need it. These Representatives may not necessarily care whether or not you voted for them in the past, but they absolutely care if you will vote for them in the future; therefore, our opinions absolutely sway their votes in legislation, so DO NOT be silent. Both parties have their share of guilt for partisan gridlock and inability to work together to solve problems… how can we get their attention? Vote! Make sure the people who represent you are actually listening to you and have a true willingness and ability to fight on your behalf.
(If you’re not sure who represents you in DC or your Statehouse, click HERE to get more info)
In short, this is the basic idea I’ve been trying to drive home through these blogs about voting:
If you’re worried about the quality of your children’s education, vote.
If you’re worried about you and your family having access to and resources for higher education, vote.
If you’re worried about how to pay for and obtain health insurance, vote.
If you’re worried about who you’ll be allowed to marry, vote.
If you’re worried about the limitations imposed on who you’re allowed to be in our society, vote.
If you’re even simply worried about the amount of potholes in your city, vote.
Many people seem to view politics as a zero-sum game: as more people are given representation and a political voice, those who traditionally have power will lose their standing. But this is a narrow way to look at the democratic process. We should always be looking to expand representation; this is democracy at its very core. If we are worried about what happens when we bring more people to the table and how we will get everyone to fit in a seat, then maybe it’s time to build a bigger table. This starts with simply showing up. Vote.