We are a week away from election day. Typically, odd-year elections get extremely poor turnout at the polls. That’s always bothered me. People are always saying that they wish they could make a difference (or the related statement that they are disappointed that they can’t make a difference). Realistically, odd-year elections are the time when most of us can make the biggest difference.
Odd-year elections, for the most part, are for local elections. Next week, I’m going to be voting for mayor, town council, board of ed, and fire commissioner. That’s the case with most Americans. Those positions may not be as sexy as president or senator, but when it comes to our day-to-day lives, they are probably more important. Trump gets people very excited, but for most Americans, he hasn’t changed our lives very much (I’m not trying to downplay the damage he’s done or the lives he has affected, and there are many. I just mean that the president doesn’t have the authority to make changes at my kid’s school or decide which roads get repaired or whether those roads will be pedestrian friendly.) The people who get elected next week will make decisions that affect me every single day.
Many of the excuses people give for not voting don’t really work for voting in odd-years. People often complain that with tens of millions of people voting, their vote doesn’t make a difference. In odd-year elections, the pool is much smaller. It’s not uncommon for local races to be decided by less than a hundred votes. Your vote really does make a difference. People also complain that the elected officials don’t really care what the people think. But local officials actually do care. They are sending their kids to the same schools and driving on the same roads. Plus, it is easy to go to meetings and speak and make sure they hear what you have to say.
The other reason it is so important to vote in odd-year elections, is that these, and the state elections, are the elections where the two major parties consolidate their power. It is a lot easier for national changes to be made when those changes have the support of sympathetic local officials. The Republicans have been far more successful in this arena for a while now. That’s why they’re able to gerrymander and disenfranchise voters and generally do a bunch of things that go against the will of the majority of Americans. In order to take the country back, we need to vote in the local and state elections.
Being registered to vote doesn’t expire. If you are registered for the presidential elections, you’re still registered for the local elections. Go out next Tuesday and use that vote. You can make things better.