May 23, 2024

What election is the most important one we participate in as American citizens?

Most people would point to the presidential election as the most important day for voters in America. The 2020 presidential election took place almost one year ago. We will not have another presidential election for three years, meaning that a nationwide election will not occur again until 2024. However, some of the most important voting measures are taking place in between.

As a society, we discuss national politics often. The media covers the national election to such an extent that we perceive it as the most significant box we check on the ballot. Everything seems to hinge on this election; if it goes in our favor, it feels as though we have discovered salvation, and if it swings the other way, we act as though hell has rained upon us.

I used to focus most of my attention on the national election, too, until I took a class in state and local government a year ago. During that course, I learned that most of what directly affects our lives actually stems from decisions at the local level.

State and local governments have more direct interactions with citizens and make decisions more likely to directly affect us. Local governments manage police departments, schools and libraries, according to the White House website. They manage institutions that we rely on and interact with on a daily basis, and county and state measures affect budget allocations, laws, taxation and regulations in local communities.

Although we rarely hear about local government issues, they affect us more than we realize. However, a lack of interest in local issues makes it difficult for us to be active participants in our communities and in determining crucial aspects of our own lives. 

This November, various Californian counties and cities have local measures on the ballot. For example, Inglewood will be voting on whether or not there should be additional taxation on real estate, according to Ballotpedia. Alhambra Unified School District will be voting on how to conduct future school district elections. Across the country, many more regions are holding their own elections for local measures that will affect communities.

The media often neglects to cover local government, and we often forget to value it. We must begin to prioritize local issues as well as national ones because, in the end, local governments hold the nation together. Do not wait for another three years to pass until you begin to pay attention to elections and ballots again because our civic duty as Americans stretches beyond sporadic participation in the political process of the nation. We have a responsibility to learn about local issues and vote in ways that will positively impact our communities. Without successful local governments, we cannot have a successful, well-organized nation.

Next time you think about politics, take some time to research your local government. Become aware of the current issues in your area, and consider how you can make an impact. If we begin to view every level of government as important, we can use our voices to positively influence our communities and take a more active approach in making a difference for ourselves and those around us.

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