These are not the federal elections. There won’t be nationally televised debates, widely publicized gaffes by candidates nor campaign commercials telling you to care about voting. These are the local elections. And while they may not offer the big, sexy issues or the widespread appeal that federal elections do, local elections often have a bigger impact on everyday life.
This Tuesday, the local elections will take place in Ann Arbor. In the past, these local elections have had the lowest voter turnout of all elections. And the college-aged bracket has had by far the lowest turnout of all age ranges. There were a total of three votes cast in the Hill Campus Precinct in 2011. That’s right — out of more than 2,000 registered voters, just three decided to take the time to make their voices heard.
The above statistic is the reason why I am writing this. Frankly, it’s depressing to see students so apathetic as to what’s going on in the local government. These elections do matter, as we will be electing Ann Arbor City Council members who will be deciding what issues are important and how to allocate resources in the city. And there are a multitude of other reasons to vote.
Local governments collect nearly as much total money in taxes as the federal government throughout the country. Instead of applying these taxes to programs at the large federal scale, these funds are used exclusively for issues in local life — roads, schools, libraries, public transit, to name a few. And these are the issues that truly have an effect on student life here at the University.
Additionally, local elections are a way to actually get your voice heard. With significantly fewer voters, each vote carries much more weight than it carries in federal elections. And each constituent is important to the members of Ann Arbor City Council, meaning that if there’s an issue that you care deeply about, getting in touch with a city council member could actually reap benefits in the immediate future.
I know that many students find excuses not to vote — “I’m too busy,” “I have an exam coming up,” and “I don’t know enough about the issues,” are rationalizations I’ve heard far too often. Leave 15 minutes early and stop at your polling place on the way to class. Take those 30 minutes that you inevitably spend on Facebook or Reddit and vote instead.
If you’re looking for ways to become educated about the issues and candidates on the ballot, the Central Student Government’s Voice Your Vote commission will have a table on Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Angell Hall lobby with fact sheets on each of the candidates and issues that you will see on the ballot. We will also have a map of polling places for addresses close to campus. Additionally, Michigan’s Secretary of State’s MiVote website has information on polling places, sample ballots, and registration status.
Voting is the most important part of the political process, and is one of the few ways to make your voice heard on important issues. I implore you to exercise your right to vote in these local elections. Hail to the voters.
Election Day is Nov. 5. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. You can check your polling place and registration status via https://webapps.sos.state.mi.us/mivote/.
Jesse Buchsbaum is an LSA junior.