I was born in the United States and have lived here all my life. Something that consistently confuses me is the way people vote, not the party they vote for, but their voting habits. Personally, I vote in every election. Meanwhile, most of my fellow Americans skip local and state elections, and the ones that do vote, mostly vote in presidential elections. I get that presidential politics is exciting with the big personalities and the ads everywhere, but seriously, the president doesn’t have much to do with your daily existence.
The politicians who have, by far, the biggest impact on my everyday life are the Board of Supervisors, School Board, County Sheriff, and any other local officials that are elected. These are the people who decide how much to tax my property, how much money will be spent on schools, how often my trash will be picked up, and other other important supposedly little things that determine my quality of life. Sometimes only 2 or 3 percent of qualified voters show up for these contests. I always show up, because relative to presidential elections with their crazy electoral college bullshit, my vote counts directly in local and state elections. Not to mention, since only a tiny percentage of the community shows up, my vote carries disproportionate weight.
You know the old adage that charity begins at home? Well so does politics. If you are unhappy with your quality of life, vote locally. Mayors and boards of supervisors or councilmen are the people who are deciding what companies to try and get to come to your community. They directly influence whether or not you have a job to go to and the quality of that job.
And while we’re on the subject, don’t assume that the national party that you like is going to be the same on the local level. Many municipalities are so firmly entrenched in one party or the other that they don’t resemble the national party at all because they’ve had to faction themselves to distinguish one candidate from the other. In no other election does the actual person matter as much as they do in local elections. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to meet local candidates and size them up for yourself.
So I hope you all voted in the presidential primaries today. But more importantly, I hope you all vote in all the elections you have access to. If you feel like your voice doesn’t matter, vote anyway. The thing that is absolutely true is that if you don’t vote your voice definitely won’t be heard, but if you do vote, it likely will be heard and greater involvement is what democracy needs to truly be democracy. Participate!