Why voting in local elections is critical for the future of your community
Why vote? You’re only one person. Is it really worth it to take time out of your busy Tuesday to wait in line at your neighborhood precinct to cast a ballot for a few people you’ve never met?
The best-kept secret about local government is that it affects your daily life far more than you probably realize. Off the top of my head, local elected officials are responsible for making decisions about our roads, schools, taxes, police and fire departments, parks, housing, sewers, snow removal, and public transportation. If any of those items seem important to you, then you should vote.
While I just listed a nuts-and-bolts scope of municipal government areas of oversight, our local elected leaders are also largely responsible for the direction of our cities. These men and women cast vision for the types of cities we aspire to be in 5, 10, and even 20 years down the road. These decisions will affect our lives as well as our children’s lives for the foreseeable future. Not only do mayors and city councilors handle the unglamorous, day-to-day duties of running our towns and cities, but they are responsible for shaping the soul of our communities.
Please don’t dismiss my arguments as merely a “Schoolhouse Rock” civics lesson or as an idealistic, Leslie Knope-ian exercise in wishful thinking. I fully buy into the idea that being aware of local candidates and issues is one of the best ways to help create the community in which you want to live.
The fact of the matter is we had excellent turnout in the general election in last November’s midterm elections; 58.4% of registered voters in Hamilton County cast a ballot. That’s pretty impressive, yet only a fraction of the people who showed up in 2018 also voted in our last mayoral and city council primary elections in 2015. For instance, in Noblesville (where I live), around 5,400 people decided the 2015 Republican mayoral primary, which was essentially the general election. Contrast that number with last year’s midterm general elections, when nearly 25,000 out of Noblesville’s 43,000 eligible residents voted. Similarly, out of over 70,000 registered voters in Carmel, only 14,000 voters cast votes in a contested mayoral primary race in 2015, while 44,000 Carmel voters participated in November 2018.
Fun fact: in Indiana, you can choose whether you want a Democratic or Republican ballot in a primary, regardless of your self-identified party affiliation. So, even if you don’t consider yourself a Republican, you can vote in the Republican primary. Also, early voting makes it so easy to vote at a convenient time that will avoid any Election Day lines. That’s pretty great, if you ask me.
Have I convinced you yet? If not, I have one more ace up my sleeve. Queue the sound of a bald eagle screeching majestically while a Corvette revs its V8 engine and “The Star-Spangled Banner” blares over the P.A. system at a minor league baseball game on dollar hot dog night.
Why vote in local elections? Because you can — because it’s your right as an American citizen. One thing that makes our country remarkable is that it puts its future in the hands of its people. You can have a voice through your vote. You’ve probably heard people say, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.” I believe this is true not only for presidential contests, but also for municipal, off-off-year elections like the upcoming May 7 primary. Help decide the future of your city by exercising your right to vote.
(This article originally appeared in the Current.)