Local elections are more impactful than you might think


Photo taken by Jared Leonard ’22

Candidates running for state elections placed campaign signs at heavily trafficked areas in Westport such as the intersection of North Ave. and Long Lots Rd. in the weeks preceding election day.

This upcoming November signifies the 2020 presidential election and the democractic tradition of millions of American casting their ballots, including some Staples seniors, but there are thousands of other elections occurring simultaneously throughout the nation — local elections. 

Although the presidential election will set the course of our nation and create national policy that will affect decades to come, local elections are the most personal and direct elections that citizens have the opportunity to take part in, and it is time for Americans to recognize this.

I believe that the current level of partisanship of national politics has given Americans a negative perspective of the purpose of government and the good that it can accomplish, but nothing is further from the truth when discussing local elections. The hard working public servants that represent their communities on the local level dedicate years of their lives to create real change for their constituents, but sadly, these elections are far too often overshadowed and written off.

I believe that Americans will not appreciate the importance of local elections until they truly understand how prevalent their consequences are in their everyday lives.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin provided Governing, a monthly magazine that ran from 1987 to September of 2019, with voter turnout data from local elections over past decades and the information is astonishing. Their research found that in the 144 largest cities in the U.S., the average voter turnout for local elections in 2001 was 26.6% and plummeted to less than 21% in 2011.

The incredibly low voter turnout for local elections is worrisome to me and poses a great threat to the future of local politics. I believe that Americans will not appreciate the importance of local elections until they truly understand how prevalent their consequences are in their everyday lives.

For both large cities and small towns across the U.S., the positions in local government are far more than simply job titles. The elected officials who hold these offices reserve the power to manage many crucial aspects of our lives, such as education, emergency medical services, public safety, public works, community development and so much more. As a resident of Westport, these are the issues that I have found to most directly affect my life on a daily basis and they are absolutely worth your attention.

As members of our community, it is vital to recognize and get to know those who are tasked with handling these issues each and every day. Come Nov. 3, the candidates who are running for positions in Westport’s government will determine how many of these issues will be dealt with for years to come.

I have found that many people are hesitant to give local elections their attention due to their misconception that the policies created at the local level have no effect on national politics, but this could not be further from the truth.

National policies begin in local government and then work their way up to the state government before reaching the national government. As Americans, we possess the power to dictate political policies in this country, and I strongly believe that the best way of doing so is simply voicing your opinion in local elections.

An article by the Hill supports this idea and recommends that voters should stay informed on their local politics so that they have a clear stance on what issues they would like to see addressed when casting their ballots in elections.

Voting is a practice ingrained in the principles of our nation and registered voters can and should take advantage of this privilege as a way to have your beliefs heard. I urge registered voters to consider informing yourself on the beliefs of the candidates running in your local elections and take a moment to decide who you believe would best represent you.

If I could offer a piece of advice to the Staples seniors who are registered to vote for the first time this year, I suggest you focus your attention beyond the presidential election by looking closer to home and realize the influence that local elections have on your lives.