A person casts their ballot at a polling booth. Photo courtesy of Flickr

Morgan Huber
Associate Opinion Editor

As local elections quickly creep around the corner, students and residents appear to not be chasing the deadline, but are rather avoiding it. Unlike presidential elections, where those elected cover a broader scope in regards to issues and platforms, these local and state candidates hit much closer to home with every decision they make in the court or boardroom. More than ever, it is crucial to contemplate our often overlooked constituents and how they affect our daily lives as citizens. Monday was the last day for new and changing voters to register and voice their opinion in the ballots on this upcoming election day. With campus apathetic over this year’s elections, however, things look grim for voter turnout. 

According to statistics from Vote PA and various official county websites from south-central Pa., voter turnout rates in recent years remain low and stagnant, with roughly 15% to 20% of eligible voters showing up to the local polls each year. Yet, with a staggering 70% of eligible voters in Pennsylvania voting in the 2020 presidential election, this exception may or may not signal hope for this year. 

While local, regional, and state elections are deemed to be of little importance in today’s world, they are quite the contrary. For the state of Pennsylvania, all candidates up for election or reelection are members of our government’s judicial branch, including nominees for the Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth Courts of the state. Local and municipal candidates range from county clerks to supervisors, to even your local school board. When roads are fixed, taxes change, or the job market thrives or plummets, these are all primarily effects of our local representatives’ decisions. 

When less than a quarter of Pennsylvanians vote in these seemingly “unimportant” elections, we not only fail to fulfill an integral part of our civic duty, but we also surrender our ability to exercise democracy. Moreover, the 13% who voted will certainly paint a much less accurate picture of the needs and wants of the people than the 80%, 90% or ideally even 100% who could vote, if they cared to do so. When individuals fail to exercise their right to vote, the so-called “freedom” that is so highly valued in American society might as well be meaningless, or even forfeited, as the few who actually do exercise that right may or may not accurately represent the view and beliefs of the people. 

With this issue being addressed, it is of the utmost importance to consider – as a reader, and as a voter, what can I do to resolve this problem? If you are already registered to vote, or have done so in years past, then you, and nobody else, have the power to cast your own vote and make a difference in this year’s election. If you think your vote “doesn’t matter” or “does not count,” you are lying to yourself: the absence of votes from people with this idea could monumentally affect this election. Your vote does matter, and it does count. If you want to continue living in a democracy, or in a state that permits you to exercise this valuable but often overlooked right, the best and perhaps only thing you can do for the common good is educate yourself on candidates, fill out that ballot, and cast your vote.