Political engagement in America is not what it used to be, especially when it comes to local and state governments. In the 2016 general election, only 60.2 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots. If so many voices were unheard in a major national election, think of how many are left silent on the local and state levels.
Some experts are categorizing 2018 as a possibly monumental midterm year. But with no general election drawing out those every-four-year voters, there may not be a large turnout.
What many do not realize is that local and state government officials impact us on a daily basis. No matter how much we like or dislike the president, senators or representatives, only some of what they do (if they actually do anything) influences what the average American does.
Then why do so few get involved? Americans tend to equate an official’s status or title with the official’s relevance to their personal lives.
For example, some may think the president has much greater relevance to my daily life than does the mayor of the town where I live. But that simply is not the case. Local officials are constantly passing legislation that affects their constituents in the here and now.
Another reason most Americans choose not to get involved in elections is that they do not have the time to research every candidate and participate in primaries and general elections. Political hobbyism, the idea that political involvement is something you do if you really enjoy politics, has taken the country, including this university, by storm.
To engage in politics, one does not need to be studying political science or public policy leadership, because everyone has an opinion about how the government should be run. Local elections allow for students to see change in things we all complain about, like parking or businesses in our community.
Voting is an integral part of political participation, and on a local level, it is usually simple. Students do not have to venture far to run into a group offering to help them with voter registration.
On any day of the week, there can be a table on Business Row with voter registration forms ready for students to fill out. Some groups even offer information about polling sites and how to get to them if you don’t have a means of transportation. But most students don’t see the point in taking five minutes to fill out the card or get the information.
Political hobbyism doesn’t have to be the norm for this generation. And just one vote can make a huge difference in small-town elections like those in Oxford.
Lauren Moses is a freshman accounting and political science major from Dallas.