The Importance of Local Elections

Written by Paulina Ukrainets

In these past couple of weeks leading up to the election, I’ve been finding it hard to keep my sanity. The constant presence of both candidates in the media has started to haunt me; I can barely remember the days when Trump and Clinton weren’t crowding my thoughts and newsfeed. I am a politically inclined person, and since I’ve mostly stopped treating these presidential campaigns as politics (instead treating them more as performance art, or a twisted reality show), I’ve been on the lookout for an alternate outlet for the concerned citizen in me. A couple of weeks ago, I found it.

One Thursday last block, I raced from my classroom to McHugh Commons to get in line for the free Chinese food, which was courteously being provided as additional enticement for attending a panel of the two local County Commissioner candidates — Electra Johnson and Stan VanderWerf. The only thing I knew about the local candidates was Electra’s catchy slogan — “Elect Electra” — that I saw on yard signs around the city, and I thought I didn’t really care to know more. Having grown up in the UK, where the local laws and their enforcement don’t differ much from elsewhere in the country, I had not yet internalized the significance of voting for state and county representatives. Plus, with the amount of attention the presidential election was getting in the media, it seemed like the presidential candidates were the only ones that mattered. I would like to loudly and clearly admit now that I was wrong.

As I was sitting in McHugh, listening to Johnson and VanderWerf discuss (in a civilized, courteous manner) issues ranging from the state’s high teen suicide rates to Amendment 69—the proposed amendment that would create ColoradoCare, a public insurance plan for all Colorado residents—I was struck by how agitated I was becoming. The issues discussed by the candidates, I was realizing, would affect my everyday life directly—and I wouldn’t have been bothered enough to have my say if I hadn’t been craving the free chicken fried rice.

I think there are a great number of people in the U.S. today who consider the political system broken. According to an Associated Press-GfK poll (which is, albeit, a little dated—it was conducted in March and April 2016), only 28 percent of people would feel excited or satisfied about Hillary Clinton being the Democratic presidential nominee, and only 19 percent would feel that way about Trump as the Republican nominee. It seems as though, to a lot of people, this election is disappointing—but it doesn’t have to be. While it is likely that we’ll feel the effects of either a Clinton or (what a horrifying thought) a Trump presidency more directly than in the past, it is certain that we will directly experience the results of choices made by local governments.

If you want to see change in the system, act on it. Decisions made locally are likely to affect your everyday life, and it is up to you whether they affect it for better or for worse. Research the candidates, make up your mind, and tick a few more boxes on your ballot. Feeling powerless is the easy way out.

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