It’s November again, which means red leaves, football, Thanksgiving, and elections. Yes, that’s right, it’s election season again. No, Donald Trump’s term is not up, but there are plenty of elections that are not Presidential. In fact, there are many elections that do not even involve the federal government. These elections are both local and regional.
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Local elections determine several positions, from City Council, to Mayor, to School Committee. They often get the least amount of voters. For example, less than 14% of New Yorkers voted in the last mayoral election, compared to about 58% of the eligible voters who voted in the 2016 Presidential election. In some cities, the percentage of voters for mayoral elections can be as low as 6.1%. In short, very few people seem to care about local politics. Yet, for many people, local elections will affect their daily life far more than senate or presidential elections.
Local officials are involved in shaping the way every region runs. Whether it’s planning new building projects, creating bike lanes, or changing school curricula, these decisions make noticeable differences in the lives of all the residents. Local politicians are not as famous as national politicians, and they run smaller campaigns, so you probably won’t see many commercials or major advertising campaigns for them. You will see yard signs, flyers, t-shirts, and online advertisements, though.
Although they may not have the same campaign budget as a senate candidate might have, their role is still quite important. In some ways, the fact that big businesses often have a more limited role in local politics can be good. Candidates are less dependent on special interest groups and large corporations, and they focus more on the citizens.
Every area runs local elections differently, and they don’t all hold them in November. Some regions specifically hold local elections to coincide with Presidential elections, while others hold elections on odd-number years- these elections are especially overlooked.
Any US citizen over the age of eighteen can register to vote, and they should vote. Unfortunately, voter registration and voter turnout numbers are not high. Last year, 58% of eligible voters voted for the President. That is just over half of those who are eligible. Unfortunately, those who do not vote in elections will not have a say in who is in power and what policies will be implemented. Sadly, young people do not tend to vote, especially not in local elections.
Young people have the power to enact change in their communities by voting in local elections, but most do not participate. High school students who are eighteen have the power to decide who runs their school district. Young workers have the power to vote for City Council members who may raise the minimum wage. These are real differences that can often be implemented faster than they would be on a national level.
Some young people run for office or work on campaigns, which is amazing. But if you aren’t interested in running, at least go out to vote and make sure your voice is heard in your community.
Hi, my name is Kathryn Kuhar and I am a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard College studying Government. A fun fact about me is that I’ve lived in Hawaii, California, Belgium, and Turkey.