With All Due Respect to Presidential Races, It’s Not Just About You

One sign of a democracy in danger of losing its freedom is low voter turnout.

With All Due Respect to Presidential Races, It’s Not Just About You
Photo by Heather Mount / Unsplash

With All Due Respect to Presidential Races, It’s Not Just About You

Local elections. They often lack the passion and frankly, media coverage of presidential races. And midterm elections, while considered a referendum on presidents and administrations, historically generate lower voter turnout than presidential elections. But like college midterms, this midpoint in our process feeds our final grades (or outcomes). If you were like me in college, you partied all semester and then spent 72 straight hours cramming for the important tests. Let’s prepare now for the coming election.

Your Vote Matters, a lot.

If you walked into the mall and asked 10 people the names of their school board members, who sits on their city council or county supervisors; how many would be able to tell you the names? But if you asked those same people the importance of school quality, policing, public safety, local laws governing everything from housing to transportation-----they would likely know what matters to them and have strong opinions. Voting connects those dots.

Melissa Wyatt of Rock the Vote writes,

“There is no level of government that is more directly responsible for serving your community than your local elected officials. Local government can affect almost every aspect of your daily life.”

Voting in local races, and all elections is necessary for the protection of our democracy and our lives.  We can look to history for examples of the power of the vote.

In the 2018 Kentucky House of Representatives election, Democrat Jim Glenn defeated Republican incumbent DJ Johnson by 1 vote.

During the 2016 Vermont Senate Democratic Primary, former Sergeant-at-Arms Francis K. Brooks defeated fourth-place finisher Ashley Hill by one vote, 3,709 to 3,708.

In the 2010 Massachusetts House of Representatives election, Peter J. Durant was declared the winner by 1 vote.

In the 2002 Connecticut House of Representatives race, Republican Anne Ruwet defeated Democrat John S. Kovaleski by one vote (3,236–3,235).

Also in 2002, Kevin Entze, a police officer from Washington state, lost a GOP primary in the state House race by one vote out of more than 11,700 cast. He found out that one of his fellow reserve officers forgot to mail in his ballot.

A Democracy Requires Citizen Participation

One sign of a democracy in danger of losing its freedom, is low voter turnout. There are those in our country who try to thwart the democratic process in favor of de facto autocracy. In an autocratic system, one person has the authority to make decisions with little or no input from the citizenry. Democratic systems allow everyone to take part in decision-making through the vote.  

Our system wasn’t created to support one-person rule. The adage about absolute power is all too real.

If you’ve ever doubted the value of the vote, take a look at the horrendous efforts throughout our history to suppress it. Laws were created to prevent Indigenous Peoples, Black Americans, Mexican Americans, women and other disenfranchised groups from voting. It took protests, fighting and death to change that. And unfortunately, the fight for the right to vote continues in many states in the U.S. today.

If votes and the voting process didn’t matter, we would not continually see these attempts to make voting difficult or impossible for certain groups of citizens.

Landmark decisions affecting our civil liberties begin at the local level by elected officials whose names you may not know. Local government is in our backyard for a reason, it is accessible and critical to our day-to-day lives.

It’s Time to Prepare for Midterms

If you’ve ignored the local candidates this election season, it’s time to cram for the vote. The people who want to represent us deserve our time and attention. And as a voter, you deserve the use of your voice in deciding who gets the privilege of holding public office in your backyard.