It’s been a year since the last whirlwind of an election.
Presidential elections get too much hype. The president is the highest office in the land, and it certainly is very important, but our lives are being directly affected by the folks much closer to us. (Editor’s Note: Remember our Read. Resist. Vote. limited series? Pepperidge Farm remembers.)
Chances are very high that you have an election coming up near you. Do you know who is running for what office? Do you even know which local positions are elected offices? I was today-years-old when I discovered that some counties elect a County Engineer!
I can speak for my high school civics/government classes when I say that I never learned about local government or the importance of local elections. I learned everything I know because my mom has been working for our county’s elections office since I was in eighth grade. I was 17 when I registered to vote. My mom made sure I voted in every single election.
Local elections still need us to show up. Here are some facts.
You are voting for everyday decisions
Federal government is super important to keep us running as a country. However, local officials are the ones making decisions that affect our everyday lives. Local government works similarly to the federal government. The mayor (or city manager) serves as the executive branch; the city council serves as the legislative branch; and the district attorney acts as the judicial branch. Check this list for descriptions of these positions.
Remember mask mandates? Local government decides on matters like that. For some cities, that greatly influenced the spread of COVID-19. They also control things like libraries (very important for us book nerds), parks, and schools.
The same happens for the state level. Voting for governor and state senators and representatives influence the outcome of how federal laws are implemented on the state level. They control things like income taxes and distribute money for governmental assistance programs like Medicaid.
Local elections also dictate what happens on a federal level
People often forget that the president is not a monarch; they do no have total control of the country and work closely together with the legislative branch. Who we vote into the House of Representatives and Senate is just as important as who we vote for president.
How many times have people told you to call your representative or senator to influence how they support or block a bill? I know I reach out to my senators all the time, but I know they don’t listen to what my progressive ass has to say. I always get a little automated email generally addressing the topic I’m bothering them about to let me down easy and subtly attack the other side.
Let’s vote for the folks who are going to best represent us up front, rather than spending energy trying to change the minds of the people who are determined to uphold laws that only benefit rich, white men.
Pay attention and use your resources
I know it’s enough trying to keep up the 24-hour news cycle, but I am here to tell you to watch your local news and read your local papers every once in a while, especially when elections are coming up. They will keep you updated on who is running for various offices and which elections are coming up. Pay attention to other elections (and primaries!) happening all year long!
For smaller positions, sometimes it can be difficult to just google who is running for what office. As much as Facebook can be detrimental to elections, it can also be great to find out who represents you based on your zip code. There are other tools like Ballotpedia to look up a sample ballot for the upcoming elections you have.
There’s also Vote.org to do all sorts of things like set reminders for upcoming elections, request an absentee ballot, and check your registration status (you don’t want any surprises when you get to the polls).
So as you prepare for your upcoming elections, research your candidates and make sure your registration is up-to-date. All elections matter.