Presidential election campaigns get wall-to-wall media coverage for four years, which holds our attention and leads to high turn-out (though one can argue it’s not high enough). But when local elections are held a few months later, turn-out can languish in the teens or in single digits. I believe this is upside-down.
A national election affects the overall attitude and direction of national policy, but its immediate effect on our day-to-day lives is minuscule relative to the outcome of a local election. For instance, an election for municipal judge is widely ignored. But if we have a dispute with a neighbor or an unjust citation, we stand before the municipal judge.
The city council approves zoning rules that determine what we can do with our own property. They hire police officers with the power to arrest and detain us, as well as the officials responsible for the upkeep of our roads and parks.
The members of the school board determine who will teach our children, what they will be taught, and how well we care for the buildings where our kids spend their days.
Yet with all the direct impact that local officials have on our personal lives, local elections seem to be universally ignored. We ignore these elections at our peril.
Now more than ever, we must pay close attention to local elections. Most candidates are only a phone call away. Talk to them about the issues you care about, then show up to vote on April 4.