Yesterday marked election day for some parts of the country. Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi held statewide elections for governor, executive offices and the state legislature. Most other states held local municipal elections for races such, as school board and city council.
While we didn’t have any elections in Vermillion yesterday, the country is one year away from the 2024 general election. Not only will the country vote on the next president, but the country will vote for control of Congress, state legislatures and voter initiatives.
Elections in democracies function best when there is an informed electorate that goes out to vote. One criticism of the United States’ elections is that voter turnout is low. The 2020 election had a turnout of 66%, although the average for past elections is around 60%.
Having high-voter turnout can be good, too, but only when the voters are informed and able to choose between different candidates. High turnout for the sake of high turnout doesn’t fix the fundamental problem of people not caring about issues.
North Korea holds elections every five years with high turnout, due to the country’s policy of mandatory voting. However, there is only one party on the ballot, and the Korean Workers’ Party wins all 587 seats in the North Korean parliament.
Australia has multiple parties, but it enforces compulsory voting for all adults with the threat of fines. A $180 penalty may be enough to get someone to a polling location, but that doesn’t force someone to care about the issues.
You may be thinking, “That’s great, but who actually cares about any of this?” It turns out, you do! You already care about most issues because they impact your life, whether you’re aware or not.
For example, signatures are being gathered in the state for three voter initiatives that you might see on your ballot next November. They relate to abortion, grocery taxes and who may vote in a primary election.
Perhaps you don’t care about primary elections, but most of us have opinions on abortion and all of us care about the cost of groceries at WalMart or Hy-Vee.
Our local elections impact us a lot, even if they garner far less attention than national races. Voters can decide how much money goes toward schools or EMS services through property taxes. This seems meaningless to university students until you realize that an increase in property taxes has an impact on the cost of rent.
Some people choose not to vote because they believe voting doesn’t matter and won’t change anything. Unfortunately, that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’re only guaranteed to lose when you don’t show up, even if the odds are against you.
Hopefully, you’ll start to pay attention to issues as candidates and interest groups bombard the public with ads and smear campaigns. While this country is divided and polarized, almost everyone can agree that changes should be made in some capacity and that our country is worth caring about.