The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations. ~United States Constitution
“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who don’t vote.” ~ George Jean Nathan
“Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it.” ~ Susan B. Anthony
All across the nation, there are local and state elections coming up; most will be on Tuesday, November 2.
Unfortunately, although these local elections impact the daily lives of the citizens in cities, towns, villages and hamlets across the nation, according to a New York Times article, the average recent number of eligible voters that turn out for these elections is a paltry 27 percent. The irony is that while national elections — Presidential and Congressional — are crucial to the country as a whole, it is state and local officials that make decisions that affect our communities and daily lives: road repairs, property taxes, school policies, zoning, public transportation and so on. As it stands, wherever you live, if you don’t vote in local elections, you have, in effect, assigned your power to other citizens to make these important decisions for you.
Therefore, if you want change, you need to vote for candidates who will bring change; if you like things the way they are, then you need to vote for the incumbents.
Use It Or Lose It
The news is full of voter suppression efforts, disinformation about election fraud and the lack of interest in off-Presidential-year and local elections. The most powerful voice the American people have in the way their government is run is in jeopardy. Voting is a use-it-or-lose-it possibility.
There are roughly 300 million U.S. citizens that are eligible to vote. The 2020 Presidential election saw the highest voter turnout in 20 years: two-thirds of eligible voters went to the polls — either by mail, or in person early or on election day. So, what happened to the other one-third, or 100 million voters?
Since 1776, men and women of all backgrounds have fought, served and died in wars, as well as having supported those efforts at home and abroad, for the right of Americans to vote and remain free. And, yet, far too many Americans have a multitude of excuses for not voting:
- I’m too busy.
- I don’t care about the issues; I’m not political.
- I forgot.
- I don’t like any of the candidates running.
- The system is rigged.
A landmark survey last year by the Knight Foundation also revealed that non-voters and infrequent voters are less engaged with the news and are, therefore, less informed. And young voters 18-24 were even less inclined to vote due to disinterest or obstacles to casting their votes.
Another obstacle to healthy voter turnout for local elections is the fact that many are held on dates other than the usual federal election day, which is set by Congress to be “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November.” Rather than holding them another time of year, aligning local elections with federal and state elections on that Tuesday would probably help to increase local election turnout.
But voters themselves also need to take responsibility. The United States is a self-governing republic, in which the people hold the power but elect representatives to implement their power. We also have a government of checks and balances to ensure proper oversight. And while this form of government has worked well for the most part, it has undergone strife. And that is the reason that the people must be diligent in engaging in civic activities, researching candidates and voting for the best ones for public office.
In the same way we ensure that our households, businesses, careers and jobs are running smoothly, we must ensure that our towns and country are running smoothly. We can just imagine what could happen in those other areas of our lives if we abstained from decision-making. Often none of the choices before us are perfect, but we still must make decisions to keep things humming along. It’s the same with our cities and towns.
We are a week away from election day 2021, so if you already know about local elections in your area and are planning to for candidates and ballot measures — good for you! If you have not yet done so, there is time — please study up and vote!
Resources To Rock Your Vote
The best way to learn about candidates and issues is to read the local newspapers and candidate mailings and visit local news websites; chat with neighbors; attend town board meetings, town halls, school board meetings and candidate meet & greet gatherings (usually hosted by friends and neighbors); and visit candidates’ websites. Another way is to take a few minutes to listen to the volunteers who call you or knock on your door to tell you about candidates and issues. These volunteers work hard and are donating their valuable personal time to knock on doors and make thousands of phone calls to voters. This is democracy in action. If you do not wish to speak with them, don’t answer your door or phone; instead read any literature left or listen to voicemail messages. Or tell them politely that you don’t have time to speak with them, and softly close your door or disconnect the call.
The following websites are excellent resources to help you register to vote, learn what is on the ballot in your area, find the location of your polling place, discover early voting dates and locations, and more:
The League of Women Voters (not for women only!)
Rock the Vote (Empowering Young People)
Is our system of voting perfect? No! Are candidate choices always perfect? No! Is anything perfect? No! Personally, I would like to see our country go to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (check it out). But, while our current system of voting isn’t perfect, it has helped the United States of America to survive as a republic for nearly two and half centuries. And, as we noticed from history, as well as recently, who we elect matters. So, while it takes some time and effort to get ourselves ready to vote, that precious right is where our power is concentrated. And, again, if we don’t use that power, we could lose it. There are factions afoot at this very moment to deny the vote to millions of Americans. Our democracy is fragile and we have to put in the work to preserve it.
So, if there are local elections coming up where you live, please vote. It’s your right, your power, your voice. Don’t give it away.
Until next time,
Previous posts on voting and elections: