Guest Opinions

Make your vote count in your neighborhood

Holli Woodings.
Holli Woodings.

On Tuesday we’ll be electing mayors, city councilors and district commissioners all over the state of Idaho. Here in the Treasure Valley, many of us will also have the opportunity to decide on tax levies for libraries, schools, and open space. So, if you haven’t already done so, please make a plan to vote in these critical municipal elections.

In 2011, only about 20 percent of registered Ada County voters showed up to vote in municipal elections. In contrast, nearly three quarters of us voted in the 2012 presidential election, and almost two thirds turned out for the 2014 statewide election.

If all politics are truly local, as many of our higher-up elected officials say they are, why aren’t we supporting our most local decision makers with our votes? Each of the people vying for leadership positions has a unique vision for the future of our community. It’s up to you to use your vote to elect the person whose vision inspires you, or most closely resembles your own.

Do you want more convenient public transportation? Do you hope for a city park closer to home? Are you happy, or do you see room for improvement, with police or fire service? Or maybe you just love your neighborhood library and want to reward the people who built it with four more years in office?

These are all local decisions. The president doesn’t have anything to do with them, nor does the governor or secretary of state. These decisions, the ones that directly impact our everyday lives, are made at the city level, and by people who are just as democratically elected as those other guys.

But is it just as democratic when only 20 percent of registered voters take the time to show up? And why does that happen?

Unfortunately we’re not bombarded with media around local elections the way we are in presidential elections. Therefore it lands on our plates as citizens to educate ourselves on the issues, know where we stand, and choose candidates who will best represent our points-of-view. We need to know things about ourselves, like whether or not we’re willing to pay more taxes to better educate our children, enhance public safety, or preserve open space. Then it’s our job to know what will be on our ballot, and then to cast that ballot and make our individual voice heard.

Honestly, it does take a little time. And you may not be able to keep up with the Kardashians while you’re keeping up with your community. But we live in a time of less trust in elected officials, and lower voter turnout than ever before. What got us in this predicament? It’s certainly not regular voters educating themselves and voting in nonpartisan local elections, in fact I think it’s quite the opposite.

There are great resources available for us. Ada and Canyon County Elections have online tools to show you where to vote, and exactly what to expect on your specific ballot. Our newspapers have been providing rich election media, both in print and online, to help us make the decisions to best suit our individual needs. And there’s always the old standby: talking to friends, family, and neighbors and engaging in old-fashioned civil discourse about the elections.

Local elections represent everything that’s still right about government. It’s up to us to ensure our mayors, councilors and commissioners are democratically elected to the greatest extent possible. I urge you to get to know the issues and candidates, then get out and vote this Nov. 3.

Holli Woodings served as state representative for District 19 and ran for secretary of state in 2014.