Don’t forget about the local election

The other day, I received my absentee ballot for the presidential election in my inbox.

I looked over the ballot, and I realized how little I knew about what was listed.

I’m just going to be real. Since I turned 18, I have been registered to vote in the district where my parents live. Throughout college and grad school, I have moved around and just kept my parents’ house as my permanent address. While I never lived too far (until now) from this district, I was never really affected by the results of the local, district-based elections.

But, even if I was registered in the city and district where I lived, I still wouldn’t know that much about the local-level ballot. And that’s coming from a news junkie.

I know the ins and outs of this election, but I only know about every aspect of the presidential election. My focus is supremely macro.

It is commonly noted that turnout for local elections is devastatingly low in comparison to national elections. Apparently, especially for young people, like me.

I think we underplay the value of municipal powers, focusing the majority of our attention on national matters. Granted, at times, those have a bigger impact on our lives, but also, at times, they don’t.

Recent local government scandals demonstrate how municipal government can end up greatly affecting the people in that area, like the water crisis in Flint (which most of the blame has actually been placed on the state of Michigan) or the Bell scandal in California, where the elected mayor and elected city council members were elevating their salaries, raising property taxes, and just generally found guilty of corruption.

These were people either elected to office or appointed by people elected to office. People we put in power. Obviously, they made their own choices and acted out of their own interests, but perhaps these issues could have turned out differently if more attention was paid to local ballots.

I think there are lot of contributors to the decline of local voter turnout, from generational differences to a crumbling local press. Regardless, voting is still very much an individual responsibility.

As I looked at my ballot, there were 26 people to elect to various positions and 2 proposals. After the first three categories: presidential, congressional, and legislative, my knowledge drops off steeply.

This is just an honest breakdown of the 96 names on the ballot. My level of knowledge is alarmingly low.

If I were in the voting booth, I would either just vote for a party affiliation, which I have ideals in both major parties, or just use name recognition, or blindly vote. I recognize the reckless nature of this approach, but I’m certain I am not the only one.

But, since I am voting absentee, I will be able to look up each category, the people in them, and for the first time in my life make an informed voting decision on a local ballot.

I realize this sounds horrible, and you can judge me. But I will be incredibly impressed by people who go into the voting booth knowing the ins and outs of all 26+ categories. And I am genuinely someone who believes in the importance of voting.