Call to Action: Vote in Local Elections!

“American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion” explores the significance of voting in the United States. Judith Shklar offers many examples of why classes of Americans do not vote, while her argument is strong, she fails to answer the question of why many Americans don’t participate in voting.

“When one considers how passionately disenfranchised American men and women have for two centuries yearned and struggled for the suffrage, it seems deplorable that their more fortunate successors should care so little for it” (Shklar 27).

While empirical evidence leads to the conclusion that previously oppressed groups (particularly blacks and women) take to the polls less than their white, male counterparts declining voter turnout is a becoming more of a widespread issue on the American political scene.

Americans of all races, genders, and social status are less frequently excising their right (either earned of inherent from the founding) to participate in electing American officials. In fact, many social scientists predict that the 2016 Presidential Election will have one of the lowest voter turnouts in presidential election history. While voter turnout is a problem at all levels of government, it is increasingly in decline at the local level.

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Voter turnout in municipal elections has been on a steady downward trajectory for the last sixty years and only seem to spike for a small handful of reasons. Local elections have seen an increase in voter turnout when a highly contested race is held or when local offices are voted on at the same time as a national election. Similarly to Shklar’s findings, it is difficult to determine why American voters are even more disinterested in local elections than national races. Simply stated, the same groups (blacks and women) still have the same history of earning suffrage, there are the same barriers for voters at the state and local level than there are at the national level. Perhaps it is an issue of media coverage. Local elections do not have endless cable news channels with rolling twenty-four hour coverage as compared to national elections. Or do people just not care?

“Motivating more voters to participate in local elections is difficult. But while governments can’t instill voters with enthusiasm… they can make it easier for citizens to find information and remove barriers preventing people from voting to make for a stronger, more representative government” (Maciag 2).

Personally, it is difficult to swallow the idea that people may just not care as much about local government than the federal government. Policy decisions that are made within city councils and mayoral offices affect an American’s day-to-day life in a more impactful and rapid way than any policy decision at the federal level would. Local officials have the capacity to directly affect change in your community, yet only 20.81% of registered voters participated in the 2015 City of Phoenix Mayor and Council Election.

It is so important for every American to participate at national level but also at the local level. Be an informed voter in your country AND your community!

If you need more information about voting in your local election check out the Arizona Secretary of State’s Website.

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Works Cited :

McElwee, Sean. “Why Non-Voters Matter.” The Atlantic. N.p., 15 Sept. 2015. Web. 2 Oct. 2016.

Maciag, Mike. “Voter Turnout Plummeting in Local Elections.” Voter Turnout Plummeting in Local Elections. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.

 

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4 Responses to Call to Action: Vote in Local Elections!

  1. offthewals says:

    I really liked your post and after reading it, I was surprised at how few people actually vote and I agree that more people should be interested in elections. However, I don’t think a low voter turnout rate is necessarily a bad thing. A lot of Americans don’t take the time to do any research on candidates or on the issues governments (local and national) must face. In my opinion, it is better if the uniformed don’t vote. I do wish that more people would take the time to research candidates and issues and participate in elections, both national and local. This would make for a better democracy and a better government overall.

  2. Ryan Wadding says:

    I come from the perspective of someone who does pay attention to local politics and even though I knew voter turnout for local elections and referendums is low I was not shocked to find out only 20% of registered voters participated in the 2015 Phoenix Municipal election. Over the summer I knocked on what felt like thousands of doors all over Phoenix and Glendale informing voters of upcoming local, state, and national level elections. In the event of finding eligible voters who were not registered I had the ability to register them to whichever party they preferred. I was initially surprised to find so many eligible voters who were not registered. I typically carried 20 voter registration forms per day and I would consistently use all 20 forms. The typical reason someone would give me for not being registered was “I didn’t know how to register and it was not a priority to me.” Of the people who were already registered I would say the majority of them were very aware of the presidential election but almost always had very little or no knowledge of: congressional campaigns, mayoral campaigns, city council campaigns, and various other local offices. When I first stepped foot on my first canvass I was expecting to have to explain the positions of certain candidates, by the end I felt like civics teacher on the street. I liked your piece; participation is important to our democratic process. Also thank you for linking the AZ Secretary of State’s website.

  3. Hello there,
    I come from the same perspective as Ryan, but a little bit differently. I registered people to vote since my move here to the U.S. And I always was shocked at the apathy of some people, while I was eager to become a citizen and exercise this primordial duty. But I remembered the conversations we had back home around voter turnout, added to that the many countries that I visited and suffered from a low voter turnout as well.
    I think that there is a critical relationship between voter turnout and how connected people feel to their political system and the sense of ownership they have towards their political institutions. With this said, I myself struggle with the idea that people complain about their voter not changing anything on the national level, and how the system dilutes political aspirations. But following this logic, people should be swarming to the polls in local elections, for they are more democratic, they affect our lives more directly, and the public officials are personal and we can affect them. Local elections are for me the laboratory of democracy, and until we see it that way, we will be missing out on a great space to practice living together and deciding what is best for the whole community.
    Cheers!

  4. kassandracarol says:

    I would agree with Hamza, in the idea that voting is the labratory to democracy. It is hard for me to agree with Shklar in that the ability to vote is more important than actually voting. This may be because I am educated and active in politics but it is hard for me to not see myself politically active. Voting is more than a right it is an act and it is astonishing that less and less people are choosing to vote. A main part of this may be trying to young voters engaged. A simple TV advertisement is not going to do it anymore. It has to be something that will reach them as well being relevant. The only way to increase voter turn out is to find a way to engage young voters and make them see the importance of their actions.
    I would also agree with you that many feel disconnected with their government. We can see this through the current presidential election. The two candidates are not seen as fully qualified on either side, each coming with their own set of baggage. These candidates may be causing more and more voters to lose interest just because of the mere fact that these candidates aren’t appealing. Voting is such a large part of our government, it is not forced and we are given the liberty to vote for whom we see most fit so it is hard to see this liberty taken for granted.

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