The “Other” Elections: The Power of Our Local and State Representatives

As we approach the 2018 midterm elections, it appears that the nation’s attention has lent itself to the contentious federal elections, and the possible outcomes that follow its conclusion. While the potential shifts in national power might be intriguing, the federal government is not the only institution in America that has influence over the population as a whole.

State and local politics seem to be forgotten by many Americans due to their preconceived notions of how important the positions are. A report from Portland University raised concerns about voter turnout in local elections, stating that, all across America, “fewer than 15% of eligible citizens are turning out to vote for community leaders like mayors and city councilors.” The term “local” invokes the idea that any decisions made will stay within the confines of its community, thus proving to be “insignificant,” and our knowledge of a state’s position in the hierarchy of government reminds us of the power of federal authority. While it is true that local and state elections are limited to their own borders, their policies have the potential to ripple across the nation.

Consider the controversy surrounding sanctuary cities: local municipalities in the United States that limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The idea that local governments can defy federal authority like this is a contentious issue, one that cannot be addressed within this article, but the fact that municipalities have the ability to do this, and are able to trigger a national conversation about immigration and the fate of undocumented Americans simultaneously, is a striking display of the power of local government.

While these grand displays of power are somewhat impressive, it is also the policies that someone might consider “monotonous” that play a significant role in our society. Things like local property rights, building codes, road maintenance, labor laws, and funding for public services, are all secured in some way by local and state government. The quality of these elected officials determines whether or not a state highway gets updated in order to support an increase in traffic, or whether or not a university receives additional funding in order to lower their tuition. And while it is true that the federal government also deals with similar issues, states and local municipalities share these responsibilities in order to maintain the constituencies quality of life.

The contentious federal elections this year has caught the eyes of millions of Americans, drawing their attention away from our local and state elections. The lack of awareness surrounding state and local elections is troubling, not only because of the potential for a lack of proper governance of the most vital services, but because of the lack of proper representation on the national stage. If people are currently facing problems within their community, they should know that their congressman is not their only option; they can look to other figures in government as well. The people that you vote for in the “other” elections.

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