A New Activist Talks – Local Elections

 

Swati JoshiI’ve mainly voted in Presidential elections and have rarely voted in midterm and local elections. That all changed on November 2016 and now I’ve become an advocate of voting at every election. In fact, I’m deputized in Dallas and Collin Counties for voter registration. I’m not alone in my previous voting habits, because in Dallas County, during the last municipal election in May 2015, only 6.76% of the eligible voters showed up to vote.  During the May 6th, 2017 municipal election, there was a slight improvement and 7.87% of the eligible voters came to the polls to vote. And although there was about a 1% increase in the number of voter turnout, these numbers are not good. In comparison, 59.42% of the registered voters in Dallas county voted in the General (Presidential) election in November 2016. This was slightly down from the General election in November 2012, which was 60.42%.

Why Local Elections Matter

So are local elections important and are they equally or more important than the General (Presidential) election? Well, the quick answer is yes! Most definitely local elections are important. And we are currently seeing why these local elections are so important. It is a common (mis)belief that voting in the General Presidential election is the most patriotic and democratic thing a citizen can do. However, when the president fails to live up to the campaign promises he made, voters start believing that their voices (votes) don’t matter and because of this apathy, they don’t vote in the local elections.

However, in reality, the day to day actions of the president actually do not affect our everyday lives. Constitutionally, the president is not responsible for local communities. Local infrastructure and amenities, like transportation and public schools, are addressed at the local level and those who are elected in local elections have a greater impact on our everyday lives. Locally elected officials are a great example of democracy because they act on behalf of the citizens and convey their issues to the federal branch of the government. Therefore, participating in local elections is actually the most democratic activity a citizen can do. These local elected officials are supposed to represent the citizens, but when citizens don’t vote, they create a disjointed relationship between themselves and the local politicians. So, it is undemocratic and counterproductive when citizens don’t vote in local elections. Additionally, by not voting in local elections, small groups with specific interest that may not align with the majority are allowed to usurp local politics. This allows the interests of the small groups to become the primary interest of the state and those who do not vote become marginalized in their own communities.

When citizens don’t vote, the state is essentially passing laws and implementing programs without the approval of a majority of its citizens. This is easily fixed when citizens take time and vote in local elections. There is no place where one’s voice is heard louder than in one’s own backyard, so it is actually very illogical to claim that our voices are not heard. Local elections have a direct and immediate impact locally.

Reasons why you should vote in local elections

Control what the president can do:

How much the president can do while in office largely depends on whether his or her party controls the Senate or the House or both. So just because we have a Republican in the White House, his power would be limited if the Democrats controlled the Senate or the House or both. Right now, the democrats are at a disadvantage because both the Senate and the House are controlled by the Republicans. This can be changes during the upcoming 2018 Mid-Term elections.

Make our democracy more representative:

Higher voter turnout makes our democracy more representative. The consequences of ignoring local elections can cause long-term effects as we are now seeing. In 2010, the Republicans became the majority in the House of Representatives and thus crippled President Obama. In addition, the census took place in 2010 and Republican controlled state legislatures were able to gerrymander congressional districts. These issues are being experienced by all of us in North Dallas, and we have a hard fight ahead of us to fix this situation.

Pay Homage to our Founding Fathers by voting:

Voting is the right for generations of Americans; many of our great leaders before us struggled and fought to win the right to vote. It was not that long ago when sections of our population were denied voting rights. Women won the right to vote in 1919, less than 100 years ago. African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, and Native Americans have historically faced obstacles to voting.

If we look outside of the US, we’ll find many countries where portions of the population are to this day, denied voting rights. We often take our voting rights for granted and thus forget to vote or become complacent or believe our vote will not count. Actually, the opposite is true.

Voting gives your concerns a voice:

Voting is a meaningful way to support the issues that are important to you. By voting you get to complain to your elected officials about policies they have supported and promises they have made. Your voice will be strengthened if you speak out as a voter, as someone who is holding our elected officials accountable for the promises they made. So, get out and vote in all of the elections, local and national.

Swati Joshi
NDTDW Board Member
Persuasion Health Care Group Leader