The election we often forget

Commentary

James LeVan, Staff

Header image: nyclu.org

We are only four months into 2021 and a brand-new president, and already there are discussions about the 2022 midterms and if the Republicans can take the House and the Democrats can build on their majority in the Senate. You would think after a turbulent election beginning with a confusing Iowa caucus and ended with an attack on the Capitol that everyone would be fed up with elections and politics. However, with the senate divided fifty-fifty, a slew of bills being proposed in state legislatures designed to complicate the voting process (that is the nicest way I can put it) and states beginning to redraw their congressional districts, the stakes have never been higher for both parties. While 2022 is certainly going to be an important election year, and one that absolutely no one should ignore, there is another election about to occur in six months — local municipal elections across the country.

Local elections occur between the presidential election and the midterm and consist of offices that don’t hold the same national notoriety as president or congressman, but are more instrumental to our daily lives — elections for people such as school board members, district attorneys, sheriffs and local township council members. These are the office holders who can actually help you or really hurt you and your community if you choose to ignore them. The wrong people on your school board can result in your local school being underfunded, or worse, closed down. The right district attorney can determine if actual criminal justice reform happens. Likewise, these offices can be the starting ground for future politicians who seek higher office. President Joe Biden may be more well known as a senator from Delaware and Barack Obama’s vice president, but he started his political career in running for New Castle County Council in Delaware back in 1970. Today’s local sheriff may become your state’s next senator, so you want to make sure that person is good for the position.

I take great pride in the fact that the first election I ever got involved in was the local 2017 election for the school board in my area. A friend of mine, Adam, was running for school board and I told him I wanted to help in some way. Adam and I knew each other from back when I was working at a comic shop and the two of us remained friends after I left. Like me, he felt off about Trump’s election and even though I was a Republican at the time and he was a Democrat, I told him I wanted to support his campaign. I helped hand out campaign literature at the polling place. While my role was small, it felt good to be involved in the political process and make a difference by helping a friend win an election. It gave me a sense of control and being a part of something that really can’t be felt with national elections. Local elections are smaller, more intimate and if you are a history or political science major, it’s a great way to learn about local government from the ground up.

So when you go home this summer, please look up local elections in your community. Research your township’s Republican and Democratic (depending on your personal leanings) parties, offer your time to being a part of a campaign, or go to a couple of committee meetings. Government is not some alien far off institution, it’s local people trying to solve the issues of their communities — and you never know, it could lead to the beginning of your own personal future in public office.

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