Today is Election Day once again for the United States, though there is clearly a lot less interest in this year’s round of elections than last year. Inevitably, there will be a depressed turnout because people aren’t as engaged in so-called “off-year” elections. Even when our country elects the leader of the free world, our turnout only peaks around 65 percent; this number is much lower when the most important position someone is voting for is the leader of their town. Despite the fact that off-year elections are treated as less important, perceptions could not be further from the truth.
Off-year elections are, for the most part, elections for local positions. In Mansfield, for example, the town will be selecting citizens to serve on the Board of Education, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Town Council, among others. While in the grand scheme of things the work performed by these people may seem unimportant, it is likely that those that hold these positions will have the greatest impact on your daily life.
Students at UConn should have already recognized this; the new zoning policies instituted by the town have greatly impacted the functions of numerous organizations on campus. The two students running from UConn as write-in candidates, Haley Hinton and Colin Mortimer, have made this issue one of their priorities. This election presents an opportunity for UConn students to make their voices heard on this issue and they have the opportunity to try and elect candidates who will make efforts to address this problem.
Obviously, however, there is much more to local elections than fixing zoning laws. Take the local board of education, for example. While this body does not have as great of an influence over the lives of students living on campus, they can have a profound impact on families in Mansfield. The board of education has to make sure students are getting the best education they can get, often allocating how to spend tax dollars the town receives for this purpose. While education policy in the federal government is still an important issue, it is the local body that has the final say in many areas. In a way, they can be more powerful.
So while this election season has not been as exciting or as heavily covered by the media as the 2016 election, do not underestimate its significance. Politics start at the local level, so if you are someone who strongly desires certain initiatives it is imperative you get out and vote today.