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John Simonyan

Professor Weatbrook

English 2010

6 August 2018

The Importance of Your Local Election

In 1776 our founding fathers built this country on the notion that citizens of a nation

should have a say in the way they are governed. They were tired of the tyranny the british king

held them under and the ruthlessness of unfair taxation and underrepresentation. They were

exploited and abused by the system set in place to protect them and this system was so far

removed from their daily lives that they had no influence of the decrees made in regard to their

liberties and freedom. They chose to rebel and reform the system into one that allowed for

autonomy in terms of how their people choose to govern themselves. By having a fundamental

set of rights every citizen was afforded they could guarantee that their people would not be

abused by the system set in place to protect them. Although the best way they could guarantee

their citizens fair treatment was in the people's ability to choose leadership for themselves, the

ability to vote. The areas where voting has the most immediate effect is within the citizens own

communities. Sadly today this right is taken for granted and proportionally those who have the

ability to vote do not and as such they miss out on the benefits of this democracy. Voting on a

local level allows for better representation for the individual, better representation on a national

level and is necessary for a more effective democratic process.


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America is set up to be a representative republic. Citizens elect officials that they feel

represent them on various issues and that have similar values and ideas about what kind of

policies should be in place to benefit their community as a whole. Though this process is only as

effective as those that participate in it and currently participation on a local level is at an all time

low.In an article written by John Greenbaum and Neil Harwood they found that “ The average

turnout in local elections is around 30% or lower”(Greenbaum and Harwood, 5). This means that

only 30 percent of eligible voter actually have a say in what happens in their communities. Only

30 percent of people's voices are being heard. The individuals elected into office are representing

little more than a quarter of the people they govern over. On top of that a majority of the

individuals voting tend to be over 65 with the median age of voters on a local level being 57. In

another article written by Mike Maciag on the disparity between voting ages in american local

elections he finds that“Residents 65 years and older were a median of seven times more likely to

vote than those ages 18 to 34, who frequently registered turnout rates in the single

digits”(Maciag, 1). This means that the only people being represented by their local governments

in these areas are disproportionately older voters. These rates are abysmal and since younger

people are not as involved on a local level their representatives may hold antiquated ideas not

reflective of their voting demographic. Ideas that do not represent the community as a whole, but

only the small portion of individuals involved in these processes. I conducted a survey of 50

people in my community and found that a majority do not vote on a local level. The bulk of

individuals I surveyed were people between the ages of 18 and 30 and while most that could had

been involved in voting on a national level they were not nearly as involved on a local one. They

gave differing reasons as to why, but the most common response I received was because they

were unaware of when local elections were taking place and who was running in these offices.
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In a study done by Ardoin Phillip on the voting behaviors of college students he found

that “On average, students vote more democratically than non-students but they are also more

likely to simply choose not to vote for local candidates. By and large, they come to the polls to

vote for national offices, not local ones” (Phillip et al, 7). This means that statistically college

students tend to vote more often on the national level, but what people seem to not understand is

that the candidate pool for the national level usually comes from the local one. If these habits are

formed from a young age it is likely that they will continue in the future, furthering the disparity

between the views held by their local governments and the views held by the populace. The

representatives elected into office in your cities and towns move on to higher positions. From the

city council to state offices to state senator to president. It all starts somewhere and more often

than not it all starts in your local community. This is another reason why involvement is so

important locally. Without fair representation on this level how can an individual hope to be

fairly represented nationally. Not just for the presidential race, but state senators and your house

of representatives are also more often than not pooled from local communities and elections. The

individuals enacting laws on a national level, those who claim to represent their states and

communities are propagated by only more than a quarter of the individuals they claim to stand

for. A lot of people get upset over laws enacted by lawmakers and policies made in their

communities, but when they do not make their voice heard and do not contribute to the

democratic processes afforded to them it ultimately is partially their fault for not acting. Inaction

and complacency leads to poor representation and is removes any semblance of autonomy or

contributions to governance that any citizen might feel.

A representative republic is only as good as the individuals it represents and when only

30 percent are being representing that system is only 30 percent effective. In a study done by
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Jason Jurjevich and Phil Keisling on voting habits in cities they state that “Every day, over half a

million local elected officials are making important and influential decisions about core services

like police and fire, transportation, housing, and drinking water. As cities experience robust

growth, they are becoming important laboratories for positive civic change” (Jurjevich and

Keisling, 1). Involvement in democratic processes is hugely important and correlates directly

with the strength and well being of a community. A lack of involvement will only weaken that

community long term. A large issue with younger people not voting and not being involved

politically is their uninterest in running for office. Not all local positions or people in them have

aspirations to become president or state representatives, but they still impact their communities

heavily. When young people are not interested or involved in these processes who will grow to

replace these aging representatives? Who will become the new generation of local community

leaders? By not replacing representatives in these positions ideas of how things are run and why

become antiquated and not clearly representative of the bulk of individuals who live in those

communities. It is hugely important to be involved and this involvement directly correlates to the

well being of individuals and the communities they are part of.

Ultimately the importance of voting on a local level cannot be understated. It

allows for better representation in your local community, better representation nationally, and is

fundamental to the strength of the democratic process as a whole. The individual is reflective of

their community and vice versa. You as an individual hold as much influence over it as it holds

over. Being aware of this can help you to be an upright individual with the understanding that it

will help to better your community as a whole. Involvement in local processes is fundamental to

the betterment of your community and is the best way to make a positive change in the world

around you. So become involved, get informed, and do your best as a member of this republic to
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contribute your part and let your voice ring through the halls of liberty afforded by this nation

and all the processes therein.

Works Cited

Maciag, Mike. “Millennials Let Their Grandparents Decide Local Elections.” Governing

Magazine: State and Local Government News for America's Leaders, Governing, Jan.

2017,

www.governing.com/topics/elections/gov-voter-turnout-generations-millennials.html.

Jurjevich, Jason R, and Phil Keisling. “Who Votes For Mayor.” www.Whovotesformayor.org,

Knight Foundation, 2015, www.whovotesformayor.org/.

Ardoin, Phillip J., et al. "The Partisan Battle over College Student Voting: An Analysis of
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Student Voting Behavior in Federal, State, and Local Elections." Social Science

Quarterly (Wiley-Blackwell), vol. 96, no. 5, 15 Dec. 2015, pp. 1178-1195. EBSCOhost,

doi:10.1111/ssqu.12167.

Greenbaum, John, and Neil Harwood. “Fixing the Problem of Low Voter Turnout in US Local

Elections: A Data-Driven Solution.” Https://Www.usvotefoundation.org, U.S Vote

Foundation, 2017, www.usvotefoundation.org.