Local elections need more focus and support from the voting population

Katie Songey, Editor-in-Chief

Every four years, many Americans suddenly become interested in politics and run to the polls to cast their votes for the next President of the United States, but rarely do we ever invest the same amount of interest in the elections of the government officials who impact our daily lives the most.

Many of us fail to realize that those who hold local government positions are more likely to serve our individual needs than the president, who works for the common good of the American people as a collective whole.  The president will protect and enhance the nation as a country, but he is not the person who will hear our complaints about traffic and potholes, manage our school systems or  provide water services.  Among other responsibilities the city officials establish the speed limit, fund public schools and ensure that there is an adequate number of police officers and firefighters to provide service in an area.  If we have a concern about our school assignments, we talk to our district board members.  If we have a question regarding waste pickup or about the maintenance of our roads, we would contact our town’s public facilities department–and none of these people or departments reside or work in Washington, D.C.

Every two to four years, Americans have the chance to vote in municipal and county elections to elect new mayors, commissioners and city council members, but according to governing.com, it is not uncommon for local elections to fail to draw even 10 to 20% of registered voters.  In fact, the data from the Wake County Board of Elections reveals that in the recent Oct. 6 municipal elections for the City of Raleigh and Town of Cary, less than 11.4% of registered voters cast their votes.

Many Americans claim that one of the biggest reasons they fail to cast their votes in Presidential elections is because they feel that their individual vote does not make a difference.  In the 2012 Presidential Election, 42.5% of registered voters failed to show up at the ballots.  And many of these same people tend to skip the opportunity to vote when it matters the most and makes the biggest difference–in local elections.  Because municipal and county elections serve a smaller community, each individual vote weighs more.  In addition, there is no electoral college to override the popular vote.

The United States is governed on democratic principles, which means that the officials who we elect represent the people who chose to vote.  If individuals choose not to partake in such elections, they have no right to complain about decisions and actions that are made and enforced.  Voting is a means of voicing our opinions, and it is part of our social responsibility if we decide that we would like to be active in helping to decide how our communities are run.  After all, if we do not speak up and vote for the people who regulate our daily lives, someone else will, and we might or might not agree with that person’s principles.  But at that point, it is nobody’s fault but our own.