Printed in the Bloomington Herald-Times, October 31, 2016
I understand why some people are turned off by this dumpster fire of a Presidential election, but we still need to get out and vote. Even if you skip the Presidential election, there are plenty of races where your input is needed and that is true in local government more than anywhere else.
The Presidential election gets the most headlines, and then the state government picks up significant media attention – sometimes by national media. But the level of government that affects your life most directly and on a daily basis is not at the federal or state level, but at the local level.
It is local government, after all, that maintains parks, handles trash collection, plows your street, monitors traffic, and provides police and fire protection. Local government builds and maintains streets and county roads. If you need to register to vote, that is handled and maintained by local government. Most legal cases you have will be handled by the local clerk and court system. Local government decides what you may and may not do with your property, where businesses may locate and considers the potential impact of development on traffic and your property.
Think about your day, and how often your life is impacted by what local government does. Then think of how many times you interact with the federal and state government. The difference is pretty striking, is it not? It is critical, then, that we have experienced, knowledgeable, ethical people running our county government. Your vote will decide many very important races this year, from collecting and handling and monitoring your tax money, how your local taxes are spent, to a vote on the Planning Commission, to the administration of county offices, to the person who shows up when a loved one passes away.
It is also local government where your vote matters most! Every single vote matters in local government races to a much greater extent than in state or federal races – especially the Presidential contest. Some people say that with the large numbers, “my vote does not matter” in the race for President. Even if we accept that assertion as true for the sake of argument, your vote absolutely does matter in local government races. Not only does local government impact your life more directly and much more frequently than the federal or state government, it is in local elections where your vote has the strongest impact because the pool of voters is so much smaller.
Unless there is a major scandal or a particularly controversial piece of legislation, local government just is not as “sexy” as state or national government and I would wager most people do not even know who their local elected officials are. Therefore, people do not pay nearly as much attention to local government as they should. But you need to educate yourself on the experience, qualifications and ethics of local candidates and then get out there and vote for the candidates of your choice.