After the loud, misinformation-laden, and frankly infuriating contest that was the 2016 general election, it’s hard for many of us to even think about the idea of politics, let alone another election. Yet this April 4th, Colorado Springs voters will decide who sits on 6 City Council district seats and whether three ballot issues will be approved or rejected.
Far too often, local elections are often drowned out by the overwhelming storm of national elections, leaving many with the impression that participating in local elections is meaningless or of second order compared to what lies at stake nationally, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Local elections and their outcomes affect the average citizen’s daily life to a much larger degree than national elections, yet they often have some of the lowest, if not the lowest turnout of any elections. Are you concerned about potholes, passionate about public transportation, worried about climate change, anxious about your children’s educational prospects, or your utility and rent rates? Each of these issues, and many, many more are addressed at the local level by City Council, County Commission, or School Boards.
Given the fact that turnout is so low in local elections, only a very small portion of the population is ultimately making the decisions that most directly affect your daily life. This means that your needs, concerns, hopes, and aspirations are either ignored or considered unimportant by many local officials. Low turnout also means that powerful special interest groups often play a larger role in local elections than many realize, meaning local governments are typically comprised of individuals friendly to special interests and their megadonors, not the issues that matter to the overwhelming majority of the people they are supposed to represent. This is especially the case with our local elections in the Pikes Peak region, which are dominated by wealthy land developers and the special interest groups they bankroll.
Participating in local elections and staying informed about local issues in general is one of the most effective ways of staying active as an informed citizen, equally as important as knowing what’s happening national. Not only that, but being informed about local issues gives one a sense of empowerment not typically felt by those only plugged into one source of information. In addition, local officials tend to be much more accessible, more easily reached, and more easily influenced by their local community than national or even state elected officials.
Perhaps most importantly, in local elections, every vote truly does count. With lower turnout, local elections have been and are often decided by a handful of votes, meaning your vote could very well be the deciding factor in the outcome of local elections.
Between juggling work, school, family and social life, it’s understandably difficult for many people to stay engaged in local politics. Nobody expects you to be a total expert – but please, do what you can, when you can, when you are able, to affect positive change at the local level. You have the power, if only you choose to exercise it. United, we will create a Colorado Springs community that works for all! Be sure to cast your vote in the April 4th municipal elections!