In the United States, unlike in most other Western democracies like Canada, the U.K., Germany or Sweden, voting is an individual responsibility: Voting is optional, and voter turnout is considerably lower than in other countries.
Your first decision is to register. Over time, this option has been made easier by making registration more readily available to all adult citizens. Yet as many as one-third of all eligible voters do not register.
A number of nonpartisan organizations like the League of Women Voters have worked for many decades to promote voter registration and to fight against voter suppression, still a major issue in many states and localities in our country. The League was founded a century ago, just a few months before women won the right to vote.
Voter turnout among registered voters today is as high in the U.S. as in other Western democracies, but that is the case only in national elections. Turnout is considerable lower in local elections. Local elections, however, are good for building a sense of belonging and participation in the communities where people live. Surveys consistently show there is a hunger for local news. Print newspaper audiences, made up of those with an interest in both local government and community news, has remained high or even tended to increase over time. The shared assumption is that community participation, as shown in local elections, promotes the health of local democracy.
Voting is good for your health, too. It is a major means through which you feel that you are, or may become, an active member of your community, involved in promoting the quality of life of your family and that of other families around you.
You may realize that in strictly local elections, such as this one, pubic opinion and policy issues raised by candidates are considerably less divisive than those in national elections. You may want to learn more about what different candidates look like and what they intend to promote in the boards, councils and executive offices to which they want to be elected. And, precisely because voting is optional and many of your friends and neighbors may not care to vote locally, your vote has a higher chance of making a difference in how local government will decide on key issues affecting you and your family.
Remember, if you have not done so yet, Tuesday, November 2, is your last chance to vote and to do something positive for the health of democracy, and for your own health, too.
One fine body…