Tuesday, November 2nd is Election Day! In 35 states there are thousands of local elections that directly impact the daily lives of all the people that live in our country - those who are eligible to vote, and those that are not. In Virginia and New Jersey there are also important elections for governor and state offices.
Yet, the average age of voters that turnout for local elections is 57, with local turnout often averaging below 20%. In 10 of America’s largest cities local turnout is below 15%, some in the single digits.
Simply put, this means that a select few are making decisions that impact the lives of all people in your community. At its core, democracy requires more participation to truly function and represent a wide range of interests and experiences in decision making.
If you are on the fence about voting locally, let’s think about those numbers. In elections with such a low turnout, your vote is extremely valuable. There may be a few hundred people in your district that vote; you could easily break a tie, or be the deciding vote on a ballot initiative. You have power as a voter to influence not only your experience, but also the day-to-day lives of people in your community.
I have a laundry list of decisions that are impacted by local leaders, from the pothole that popped your tire to the awesome new skatepark in your county recreation area to local taxes and minimum wage… but, in the past 20 months we have felt the impact of local elected leaders more than ever, and perhaps these examples will bring home the importance of local elections.
• Mayors and councils across the country have set mask, vaccine, and COVID-test requirements for public spaces and local businesses, allocated COVID relief funding to keep businesses afloat, found spaces for hospital tents and morgues, navigated periods of social unrest by setting curfews, directing police, and managed periods of extreme and emergency weather.
• School Boards have made critical decisions regarding mask mandates, in-person vs virtual schooling, critical race theory, and how transgender athletes participate in sports in their districts.
• Sheriffs and District Attorneys have worked to ensure public safety. They are charged with protecting the rights of the accused/convicted and those that are victims of crimes. This includes maintaining jails and holding those within civil service accountable.
For the first time in many years, local leaders and their policies reflect a shared American experience. I know we all have thoughts on how leaders have handled the pandemic, the demonstrations last summer, and how our local communities are coming together as we close out the Delta COVID surge. You do know enough about your local leaders and issues to cast a ballot, and your community will thrive if we raise the voices of all voters at the ballot box. Take the time to vote local this year. We’re counting on you.
To learn about elections near you, get to know your candidates, and make plan to vote visit HeadCount.org.