Local elections might not be exciting, but they’re damn important

Danny Sauter
Oct 23, 2016 · Unlisted

Before this year, I could barely name an elected official in my city. Now, I can’t get enough.

I’ve vigorously researched each office up for election. Even with a silly number of local propositions up for vote (24), I’m excited to make decisions on each. I’m signing petitions, and canvassing for candidates on weekends. I started a weekly newsletter that showcases one local topic each week.

Will this newfound excitement ware off? Likely. But, it feels good for now. After past election years of focusing mostly on the Presidential race, there’s something refreshing about going local.

Look, politics is a mess — there’s no doubt about that. But, at a local level, it at least feels a bit less convoluted. A bit more transparent. And, it’s impact is very apparent.

Need evidence? Let’s take a look at how local elected officials that you may never heard about have influenced one city, San Francisco, in the last month alone:

  • Annoyed with a long morning commute? Supervisor London Breed just worked to add more capacity on a key transit line in her district. As a result, pass-ups have been reduced by 63% and capacity is up by 18%.
  • Concerned about family and work balance? Supervisor Scott Wiener just passed the nation’s strongest paid family leave, allowing for six weeks of paid time for new parents.
  • Think San Francisco needs more housing? Supervisor Mark Farrell fought for allowing in-law units, a move that could allow for thousands of new rent-controlled units to come online within years.
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Local elections don’t get the glitz and glamour of national ones. That’s a shame. They’re arguably more important, or at least more tangible day to day. And, your contributions to them can very literally be the difference: local races won by a few hundred votes are not uncommon.

Here are three things you can do to help change that, and to understand what’s happening locally before November 8th’s election:

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1 — Research the options:

  • Hoodline has a great ballot tool that lets you compare endorsements across multiple groups and publications. Here.
  • 46.87 has a similar tool, but much more minimal and perhaps easier to read. Here.
  • Ballot.fyi is a great California state guide, with entertaining photos and compelling arguments for each side. Here.

2 — Canvass:

If you’re passionate about a certain proposition or leader, go help get out the vote. Canvassing is typically just 2 hours in a certain neighborhood. You’ll be given some light training and instructions and usually paired up with a a partner if it’s your first time.

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3 — Vote (and more)

Obviously. But, go beyond, and make sure that your friends vote. Fill out your ballot on Brigade if you want to show others what you support. Ask your boss for the day off, or take advantage of the required two hours off if you’re in California.

Discovering local politics has, at least, partially restored my faith in politics for now. I only hope that you can experience the same!

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