As election season winds down, it’s important to recognize how vital it is for us as Americans to take advantage of the rights we’ve been given, voting being one of the most important of all. And while it is good to pay attention to presidential elections, it is also pertinent that people participate in local elections at all levels: state, city and town.
First, local elections can have a major impact on you as an individual, due to the fact that decisions made by local governments will more directly affect your life. Second, when talking about presidential elections, many people tend to say “your vote doesn’t really matter,” but when concerning local elections, your vote could have a major impact. Statistically, only one in five voters participate in local elections, making every vote even more impactful.
Local elections have the power to influence court systems, education and overall infrastructure. Chances are if you want to see change, the more you participate in local elections, the better the chances are change will happen. Change can also happen at the federal level, but it would take much longer than at the local level, since local governments don’t have so many hoops to go through and have fewer people to account for than the federal government.
Shanzeh Umerani, a senior at Virginia Tech majoring in multimedia journalism and minoring in international studies, commented on the power of local elections.
“Local elections hold more precedence than people think, and it’s so important to know who your local officials are, whether that’s your sheriff, senator or representative, governor, etc.,” Umerani said. “Without fully understanding the scope of their importance, we are willfully ignorant to state level decisions and wonder why we don’t know who’s in charge of the state when we’re in control of it the entire time.”
Umerani also spoke about why it’s so important for our generation to be politically active.
“With this generation, I feel like this is going to change; we’ve seen a lot of political turbulence over the past four years, and I think younger people are beginning to understand just how powerful their voices and actions are, which older politicians should be wary of because we’re growing more aware and irritated with how things are being handled,” Umerani said.
Umerani makes a good point; many people don’t know who their local elected officials are and therefore don’t understand the why or how of the decisions being made. In 2011, only 21% of voters turned out in data covering 144 of America’s largest cities. Imagine, if this number was doubled, the impact we could have on our local government. This past year has been a year calling for change; if we want that change, we first need to change our voting habits. Pay attention to both local and federal elections and look at who your local representatives are and what they stand for. Find out what you want to see done in your community and how that change could impact neighboring communities. Let’s take advantage of the fact that we can vote, both federally and locally.