VOICES: Local elections matter, so act like it

Lots of residents took advantage of early voting at the Montgomery County Board of Elections Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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Lots of residents took advantage of early voting at the Montgomery County Board of Elections Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

You don’t need a crystal ball to know what the turnout numbers for Tuesday’s election will be.

In November of 2017, only 30% of Ohio voters showed up to the polls. In November of 2016, a presidential election year, 71% of voters cast their ballots. Those numbers were 26% and 70% in 2013 and 2012, respectively,

Last year, 74% of registered Ohioans voted in the November general election. If I had to guess what the turnout for this year’s general election will look like, it’ll likely fall in the 25-30% range.

The trend isn’t new or surprising, but that doesn’t mean it’s still not disappointing.

ExploreVoter Guide: A look at all the area’s contested election races

I mean, I get it. There’s no flashy figure at the top of the ticket to rally the masses to the polls as they did last year. The Republican and Democratic parties aren’t in the trenches with volunteers fighting it out as they will in next year’s midterm election. Researching candidates and finding the time in a busy schedule to vote can be a real strain on people already squeezed for every minute in the day. The stakes feel lower, and in some ways they are. Off-year elections can feel, well, a little off.

Yet they are still incredibly important.

School board races have become battlegrounds in the larger culture wars over topics such as critical race theory, sex education, and mask or vaccine mandates. School board decisions can have dramatic consequences for the wellbeing and education of the region’s children.

Commission and council races have significant effects on the way local ordinances are shaped and decided, how much taxes you pay and what can (or can’t) be built next door to your home.

Ballot issues such as the renewal of the Human Services levy in Montgomery County or Greene County funding a proposed new jail construction can determine how millions of tax dollars will be spent on services in local communities.

In a time when it increasingly feels like the average American struggles to make a tangible difference in politics, voting in local elections in an off-year becomes even more crucial. Federal politics can seem inaccessible and futile due to special interests, billionaires, “the swamp” or whatever your perceived archvillain might be, but real change is still possible by way of your local ballot.

I would love to be wrong about my turnout prediction. Make your voice heard and vote this Tuesday, Nov. 2.

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Nicholas Hrkman

Nicholas Hrkman

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Nicholas Hrkman

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