In 2009, a record low of 18.3 percent of eligible U.S. voters headed to the polls to cast their votes for their choice of mayor, county legislator, town supervisors, city council members, state supreme court justices and many other elected positions. In the years following, the number of eligible voters who participated in local elections across various cities in the United States has declined. This is in comparison to the 55.4 percent of potential voters who showed support for the presidential candidate of their choice by voting in the 2016 general election.
Odd-year general elections, like the one in less than two weeks, have been historically under-supported because they do not boast of any national electoral races. While people are willing to trek to the polls to vote for the leader of their country, only around 36 percent made the trip in 2014 to vote for their senators and congressional representatives in midterm elections.
Whether it’s because of the absence of media attention, potential voters not having enough information about local candidates or a lack of understanding of the purpose of local government, voters do not turn out to vote for local offices.
I can’t do much to change the small amount of media attention local races get or to educate every reader about the candidates in their home districts, but I can inform you about the importance of local government and the role it plays in every one of our lives.
Local government is the level of government that provides the most services to the people. You know the people who pick up your garbage at your off-campus apartment every week and mandate you put it in those overpriced blue bags? That’s your local government.
You think the speed limit on Vestal Parkway is too slow for when you slept through your alarm and have to dash to campus for that 8:30 a.m. class? Take it up with the city of Binghamton — it’s under its jurisdiction.
The library, park or stadium that is being constructed down the road from your fraternity house is also done on the local level, as is the public school that you attended from K-12 back home. And when you hear your parents complaining that their property taxes are too high, you know who assesses and collects those? Yes — your local government.
It’s a common misconception that the legislation most affecting our daily lives is handed down from Washington, D.C. But far more impactful on an everyday basis are the laws and statutes imposed by our local governments that determine the quality of the roads we drive on, how our money is spent and the public schools that our younger brothers and sisters are attending.
This is why it is so essential to vote in local elections — these elections are giving you a voice in the decision of who should determine everything related to your home for the next few years.
If you are registered to vote in the city of Binghamton, you have the opportunity to vote for the next New York Supreme Court justice in the 6th district, Broome County clerk, Broome County judge and city of Binghamton mayor in the Nov. 7 election.
If you are registered to vote in your home county, it is not too late to apply for an absentee ballot for the election — you have until Oct. 31 to send in an application, and the ballot your Board of Elections will mail you must be postmarked by Nov. 6 to be counted. This is your opportunity to create lasting, impactful change in your city, town or village — go out and vote.
Emily Houston is a junior double-majoring in English and political science.