As citizens, young people owe it to their communities to participate in the functions of local government that directly affect them in a huge way. Elections for state and local offices take place every November, unlike the presidential, which is only every four years.
If one has not already done so, it is not too late to contact their county board of elections to request an absentee ballot for the Nov. 7 local elections this year.
The most common excuse for failure to participate in national elections is the feeling of insignificance in one’s vote, especially in the Electoral College system. This is perhaps the most valid justification for not voting, though there are few.
Compared to the tens of millions cast, one’s ability to influence the outcome of a presidential race via their vote is minuscule. This does not apply to local races, where, unfortunately, voter turnout is even lower, according to Pew Research Center. A single vote could swing the election for a county executive who may only receive a few hundred.
Becoming informed for county elections is as simple as going online to read about candidates on their websites or Facebook pages. If that is unmanageable, find a party to most closely identify with and vote the party line. This tactic is too often dismissed as tribal partisanship. That, however, is the purpose of political parties. They offer a shortcut to candidates’ positions for the majority of people who are far too busy to bother with nuanced county tax plans or waste management laws.
While national politics are admittedly much easier and more exciting to follow, it is the town board, city council and county legislature officeholders that will have a much stronger impact on individuals’ lives.
It is easy to become jaded toward the political process watching around-the-clock, sensationalized news coverage of partisan gridlock and political theatre in the District of Columbia.
Elected officials at the county level are much more accessible to their voters and are more easily held accountable. To be elected at the city or county level, requires candidates to meet directly with school boards, churches, police departments, restaurant owners and all the other institutions on which a community is built.
Typically for meager pay, local politicians work long hours to deliver palpable results to their constituents in communities they genuinely want to see improve.
No matter how hard they work, they cannot do it alone. Impactful change is possible, but requires persistent effort at the local level by citizens beyond once every four years.