Opinion: Do Local Elections Matter?

Nov. 02. 2009

Editorial by Charles Jurries

Ask someone if they will vote in the upcoming season of American Idol, and the answer will most likely be a ‘yes.’

Then ask if they will be voting in their city-wide elections. The answer will most likely be, “there’s an election soon?”

Local politics have long been marginalized by the public, who view voting for city council members and members of varying commissions to be an incredibly boring, worthless task.

However, it’s this same boring task that is of incredible importance to the voter. By choosing not to vote in their local elections, citizens are choosing to let others decide for them the issues that most directly affect them.

On Nov. 2, residents of West Michigan will get to decide on a number of important issues. For Kent County residents of the cities of Cedar Springs, East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids, Grandville, Kentwood, Walker, and Wyoming, they will get to decide their new mayors, city council and for some, city commissioners.

According to AccessKent.com, also on the ballot will be millage requests for Grand Rapids Public Schools and Rockford Public Schools. Grattan Township is also asking for a millage renewal for fire and rescue-related issues.

Yet, getting people out to the polls is always a big concern come election day. Why? Don’t people care about who will be leading the city, who will be making budget decisions, working on schools, helping to decide which business enter or leave their hometown?

Apparently not.

Take for example the 2008 presidential election. It was a major race, hotly contested. And yet, according to MSNBC’s Melissa Dahl, it took pandering to young people to sway the election – the one group who doesn’t like to vote anyways.

“Through a steady stream of texts and Twitters, experts agree Obama has managed to excite young voters by meeting them where they live — online,” Dahl said in her article.

Imagine – the biggest race in years and young people had to be convinced to vote. They didn’t think to do it all by themselves. If this is a problem that has been going on for years, and Obama just ‘magically’ finally figured out how to engage them, then, imagine their parents! If all behavior is learned, then, what sort of habits did they pick up?

It’s a rather sad state of affairs that it’s remarkable that a large segment of society was coaxed into doing their constitutional right of voting for whom they want in government.

It’s even sadder that everyone else needs that same coaxing to vote for the elections that impact them most directly.

Michigan’s Secretary of State, Terri Lynn Land, has been trying to get the word out about elections, with tweets like: “Polls open at 7 AM tomorrow check our website for info on elections www.michigan.gov/sos and VOTE!”

Whether Land’s Twitter account can make as much of a difference in Michigan as Obama did for the nation, remains to be seen. Due to past behavior, I have my doubts.

However, you do have a chance to prove me wrong.

If you want to make a difference in this election, but but aren’t registered, you can’t just do it on the day-of—you need to register 30 days in advance. This process might scare some off, but it is entirely painless. You fill out a form that is barely more intrusive than signing up for Facebook, and then the clerks take care of everything else for you.

If you are registered, then, get up early and vote. The ballot this election isn’t huge, so, it shouldn’t take much time for you to fill it out.

If you are still confused or have any lingering questions, visit michigan.gov/vote for more information. In this day and age of having internet avaliable on our cell phones and refridgerators, there’s no excuse left for being uninformed and unable to vote.

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