I did my civic duty yesterday and voted in my local elections. There was even a county referendum to decide.
This morning I checked the results. And none of the candidates I voted for won their races. And the referendum went the other way from my vote. I sighed, closed the web site, and started fuming. I should have known none of the votes I cast would make a difference.
I also noted that when I voted last night, sometime after 6 pm, there had only been slightly more than 150 people in my district voting at all. I know there are more people who live in this area. Way more. Why didn’t they come out and vote?
I suspect several things happened. First was having no time to even get to a polling place. Second was apathy about local issues – in other words as long as I can still pay my bills and work, its all okay. Third was probably just not knowing there are even local issues that MIGHT affect your life.
Its hard to look past the here-and-now when you have bills to pay, a family to care for and precarious finances, such as most of us do these days. Elections that don’t generate massive publicity or issues that resonate with the public so that local news media will talk about them are elections that get decided by the few who bother to vote. The few who keep localities from changing their ways and making things better for all residents.
Voting has been an issue in the United States since the founding of this nation. Who gets to vote, who gets a voice in what happens – whether in your local town, village, city, county or in the country as a whole – there are always those whose lives don’t allow them to hear, see or know anything past themselves. How can parents with children to care for, working too many hours for less pay, have any time left over to go out and vote? How can seniors with limited mobility and no help go out an vote? How can workers whose jobs keep them late go vote? They usually cannot.
And the mindset is why vote when it doesn’t change anything? I still have to pay my taxes, still have to do all my errands and chores. I still have to do everything I was doing before this election. Nothing will change for me.
It may not change now, or even a year from now. But down the road something will change. A road or a bridge that could have been fixed might go out, necessitating longer periods of not being used and causing you to take a longer way to work, necessitating getting up even earlier. Down the road your local job might go away because customer bases that could have been helped out go away, or funding gets cut because those in office don’t think more funding is necessary for your work. Down the road your taxes might be higher than your wages or salary because those making decisions about taxes think you can bear the burden.
Local elections may not make any differences to you today. Or tomorrow. Or next year. But they might make a difference when you least expect.
I may fume today. But this just means I have to keep an eye out for change that does affect me, and my neighbors. Perhaps the next time there’s an election locally my vote might mean something.