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Why You Should Pay Attention to Local Elections

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Why You Should Pay Attention to Local Elections

Glenn Rohrbacker

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While pundits and friends alike fight over the two presidential candidates in

anticipation of this historic election, many people will forget the candidates that matter

even more than Trump and Clinton.

People see signs with bright American colors and usually unfamiliar names on

them spread out over town, with a call to vote for that person for a local office, but do

they know what they mean? Do people know what their state senator does? Or even who

he or she is?

These local officials and their importance often get overlooked, often due to the

lack of nationally appealing factors we see in Presidential elections.

“People simply get tired of them [elections] and opt out of local elections because

they feel these are the least important when in reality they are exceedingly import,” says

Dr. Patricia Crouse, a political scientist and professor at UNH, teaching state and local

government.

Local elections have less money in them, don’t hold many campaign events, and

might only have a couple debates in the local town. Those signs on front lawns could be

the biggest piece of exposure a candidate gets, but not because their position is not

important.

Local and state governments are the most present in everyone’s lives, yet the least

recognized for their role. Fire and police departments, school districts, property taxes,

road cleanups, town laws, and many, many other daily functions of a town or state are

ran by these institutions.

State and local governments are the first citizens would blame if they failed or

weren’t functioning efficiently – think the DMV.

However, these crucial components are the quickest to be overlooked, especially

in a presidential election year.

“There is an attempt made by most states to separate local elections from state/

federal elections so that the attention is focused on the local elections,” Dr. Crouse said.

There is much less coverage of local and state elections, even in off-years, unless

there are particular interest in a certain area of the country in a competitive or game-

changing election.

Mayor of the City of New Haven, Toni Harp, recognizes the struggles faced by

politicians running for office in local elections and the lack of accessibility they may have

compared to national candidates.

“Every news station, every late night talk host, every radio station has really been

talking about the national election,” said Harp.

Despite what may seem like a conscious effort to ignore local elections during a

presidential election year, it isn’t something people even notice. Citizens aren’t any less

informed about local elections during off-years, which is why states have looked to

remedy the overwhelmingly low turnout in many areas.

“I don’t think people see any direct connection between local politics and national

politics. They don’t even think about them on the same level. Local politics is just too far

removed to be impacted by presidential politics,” Crouse added.

In respect to increasing turnout, states have tried to update their processes with

modern times. In Connecticut, the Secretary of State initiated online voter registration,

where it only takes a few minutes to register, rather than a couple weeks sending in a

request and/or making a visit to the local office.

Connecticut is also considering moving to automatic voter registration when

people sign up for an ID at the DMV.

One of the main concerns in both parties on the national stage is how this year’s

presidential election will affect down-ballot races in towns and states across the country.

Many Republicans fear losing control of Congress due to the continued discontent with

the Trump Campaign.

Dr. Crouse thinks that the affect each candidate will have in local races will be

opposite of a typical election year, where down-ballot candidates usually do well if their

party’s candidate does well.

“Rather than down ballot candidates sweeping in based on the support of a

popular candidate, you will have down ballot candidates sweeping in on the negativity

towards the opposing candidate,” she said.

The local and state elections of this year may reveal some telling things about the

path the country is looking to go.

Several governors may be displaced and we may have the balance in Congress

shifted into the blue. Only time will tell.

Glenn Rohrbacker, Editor-in-Chief

Glenn Rohrbacker is a junior at the University of New Haven studying communications with a concentration in journalism and minors in Political Science...

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