“My vote doesn’t really matter.” Have you heard that? You might have even said it yourself.
The truth is, however, your vote in a local election isn’t just important — it can be the critical difference between good and bad policies, politicians, and day-to-day life.
Like we covered in our last Democracy Series about municipal positions, there are many positions in local government that directly affect rural communities and you and your family. Our roads, our water, our schools, our clinics, and our fire/ambulance services are all a part of local government and it’s up to our local elected officials to ensure that we, the constituents, are getting what we need to maintain our quality of life.
Local government is who we turn to first when we have issues in our communities. Who we put in these positions matters. Here’s three reasons why.
Some of these races are being won by votes in the single digits.
One reason for this is because the turnout for local elections has been historically low. When turnout is low, the voting results are not an accurate reflection of the community’s needs. This also means that the weight of each vote is significantly greater. Democracy NC did a deep-dive on close elections in North Carolina, and candidates winning by a handful of votes is a way more common occurrence than you might think. In 2015, a race for Ossipee Council in Alamance County (that had less than 100 votes across candidates) was won by a margin of 4 votes. In Pender County, the vote for mayor was won by 5 votes. In Swain County, the second Bryson City Alderman seat was won by just 3 votes. Your vote has always mattered — we can’t stress it enough.
We need more local folks who care about what’s happening in our rural communities.
Sometimes, issues like environmental justice and infrastructure are talked about mostly in an urban lens.
In Alamance County, Building 16 of the Tarheel Army Missile Plant has been exposed for being a source of radioactive contamination and asbestos exposure in a mostly Black and Latinx neighborhood. Bureaucracy at the federal and state level have been a huge impediment to cleaning up this dangerous site. When two sides of the same town have an 11-year life expectancy difference, we’ve got to demand our local officials intervene. Local governments can create local air and water codes and action plans to protect the health of its residents. Land use and city planning — all decided on a local level– can be leveraged with local constituents in mind. Furthermore, those who hold elected office in our localities can (and should) be using their voice to advocate to state and federal leaders.
Voting rights are under attack.
North Carolina has been in a silent war on the right to vote for decades. The right to vote is constantly being threatened in North Carolina, and it’s up to folks who can vote to keep up the pressure on lawmakers that try to divide and depower us. One way to do that is by simply voting– in every single election.
- Redistricting has been weaponized as a way for politicians to choose their voters unethically. The campus of North Carolina A&T was quite literally split in half to dilute the power of young Black voters, a line that was only recently redrawn.
- The state constitution still includes a voter literacy test. Although literacy tests were made illegal in 1965, that provision remains as an ugly remnant of the Jim Crow era.
- The disenfranchisement of the formerly incarcerated is and continues to be a point of contention in our state. Just a few weeks ago, folks with a felony on their record were awarded their right to vote — a move that changed the lives of 56,000 people. In what should have been a celebratory win and restorative process, our legislature chose to seek outside counsel just to challenge it in appeals court, effectively stopping the process.
- Furthermore, each and every one of these moves disproportionately affect Black and brown folks who are already hyper-criminalized.
Not only does your vote matter, but it is a necessary and powerful tool to hold people accountable and effectively demonstrate our voices and needs. When the people we fight for and with are being targeted to lose their right to vote, you have to wonder why that is.
At Down Home NC, we truly believe that building power from the bottom up is the way we will win in North Carolina. Get out there and VOTE!