Last Saturday, I was at a local library as part of my public duty: to volunteer for a political campaign for a council member I supported. I've never really been the type to get involved in politics, so this was a first for me. I'll admit that most of the reason I've ever voted in national elections is because that's one of the privileges that come with turning 18 and it seems a waste to give up free privileges.
The sight I found at the library was surprising, to say the least. Because it was Saturday, the library was close to bursting with people of all different ages and races. Children were checking out movies, teens browsed through graphic novels, adults squinted at the computers in the technology section and the voting room? Almost completely empty.
In the close to two hours I spent at the library, I didn't see more than five people enter the voting room. It was clearly accessible and there were about ten signs posted inside and outside the library leading up the room along with the giant arrows creating a walkway to guide voters inside the library — not knowing it was there was certainly not an excuse. And the voters I did see all appeared to outwardly belong to roughly the same demographic — same age range, same ethnicity, everything. I'd be surprised if all of them didn't live within five miles of each other.
It's something my political science teacher griped on about a lot because, in her opinion, these were the elections that actually made a difference. According to her, the election for mayor was much more important than the election for President because it was the decisions the mayors and other representatives on a more localized level made that actually impacted us.
At the time, I excused her thinking it to be characteristic of someone so involved in political science to urge us to vote, vote, vote but I 'm finding myself agreeing with her more and more. Because it's not the President who decides what to be done with our tax money, or whether to raise or lower the state's property tax; it isn't the President running the school districts of the area and deciding how much funding to allocate to public education. It's people at the state level, at the city level and the district level that are responsible for making these decisions. I'm a college student and when it comes down to it, my state representatives have much more of a say in-state college tuition rates than anyone in the national government ever will.
I don't mean to downplay the significance of national elections (I don't really think I could do that, anyhow) but I want to make clear why I think it's important to get out and vote in local elections. There was an election for school board members in my city today and I'm certain that most of the city's population even had an idea that that was going on. We can't let our ignorance be an excuse anymore, not if we want to have a right to complain and have our voice heard. If we want change, we have to make sure we're paying attention to who we want making our decisions. Does it guarantee that everything or anything will change for the better. Maybe not, but if the alternative guarantees failure and the same cycle of complaints, then it's clear which is the better option. I'll be keeping my voter's ID handy with me from now on and I mean to come prepared to local and national elections.