Why It Matters and How to Make it Matter More
Do not ignore local elections. Failing to vote for your local representatives is a sure way to dilute
your voice and lose on the issues that matter most to you.
People have come to think of politics as a dirty word. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with all of the political noise and want to check out. But if you care about the world you live in, then government – particularly local government– is important.
First, some stats:
Despite the very loud national conversation about our government (and the freedom we have to engage in this conversation), the United States has one of the lowest voter registration rates among industrialized nations.
According to the Census Bureau, only about 65% of the U.S. voting-age population was registered in 2012.
That number is 91% in Canada and the UK, 96% in Sweden and nearly 99% in Japan.
Turnout is even lower:
In the United States, our local elections frequently experience less than 25% voter participation.
Close to home, only 86,000 people, or a little more than 33% of voters, voted in the Jefferson County school board election in 2013. The board members elected were famously recalled in 2015 after a contentious two years in office.
By learning more about the candidates up front and then voting in the election, perhaps this costly recall could have been avoided.
LOCAL POLITICS, NEWS, AND LISTENING
Local elected officials have a tremendous impact on our lives. Protected open spaces, public school curriculum and zoning regulations are all local issues.
But news media no longer has the resources to cover every school board or city council meeting, so it is up to us to educate ourselves on the issues that impact our communities. One way to do this is to get your news through a variety of sources. If a piece of information feeds into your bias too perfectly or if it seems suspicious, do a search to see if similar stories appear in a variety of other (well-rounded) sources. And don’t be afraid to talk to friends, family and neighbors to stay informed about local issues and candidates.
We may not always change our minds, but understanding the perspectives and motivations of others in our circle can broaden our understanding and help us arrive at more informed conclusions. We can have disagreement without disrespect.
KNOW YOUR CANDIDATES
Lastly, getting to know your local candidates and elected officials is an easy way to stay informed about the issues of your community, and even to help create and drive solutions to these issues. Most people involved in local government are eager to engage with the people they represent – or hope to represent – and learn about what issues are important to them. Responsive and responsible governance is the way to create healthy communities that truly reflect the wishes of their citizens. When you participate in the process and hold public servants accountable, you can help create real change in your community.
To register to vote, or learn more about the candidates up for election in your city, county or state, visit the Colorado Secretary of State’s website here.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead