State and local elections are like the Terms & Conditions of your new app: you know they’re extremely important, but you don’t really have the time to familiarize yourself with them.
While the importance of state and local elections has been demonstrated in columns a million times over – “it’s the state and local policies that affect your day-to-day lives” – voter turnout is always down, especially in primaries.
They just don’t inspire us.
Here are a few reasons, I think, why:
— They lack comprehensive news coverage.
State and local media – which always seem to be lacking both resources and personnel – often do a good job of covering campaign events, but there is usually either a lack of analysis or way too much editorializing, making it difficult for voters to parse the issues.
— They lack the entertainment factor.
Cable news pioneers revolutionized news consumption habits. They made news a new medium of entertainment. As the public’s attention continually shifts toward the more entertaining national political scene, it continually shifts away from less covered and less entertaining local political scenes.
Occasionally, a pro wrestler runs for mayor or a professional musician with hometown connections appears at a local campaign event but typically, the candidates simply don’t entertain.
— The function of some offices is misunderstood or unknown.
Public Service Commission, Place 2. What on earth does that person do? It’s not a scientific observation, but I would venture to say that many registered voters don’t know what the lieutenant governor or attorney general do, not because they are stupid, but because their offices are typically given little public attention. Following them closely requires subscribing to email newsletters or liking Facebook pages, and many voters simply don’t have those offices on their political radar.
— A voter’s involvement in the political process is determined by his level of inspiration.
And local candidates can’t provide that because of scale. The issues that local candidates are determined to solve are not important enough to enough people.
Moreover, casting a vote in local elections doesn’t arouse feelings of patriotism because this or that probate judge can’t save the country like a candidate for president or Senate can.
All of these things contribute to lack of voter motivation and could be overcome by better media coverage, better civic education, and enhanced voter desire to fulfill societal duties.
Easy enough, right?
@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News