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“Local Elections Don’t Affect Me, Do They?”

Lincoln Dinner

“Local Elections Don’t Affect Me, Do They?”

National elections seem to be in the news every day; state elections aren’t far behind. In contrast, local (county and municipal) elections receive little coverage. It may be that the only notice of a local election is an increase in yard signs with unfamiliar names. This is reflected in Idaho voters in the 2020 election – Census Bureau data shows that 69% of Idaho residents are registered voters and 65% voted 1.

Unfortunately, this is not true for local elections. Across the U.S., local elections have turnouts of about 20% 2. Importantly, there are differences in voter turnout across groups. Homeowners, the wealthy, and elderly are most likely to participate in local elections. As a result, local policies may be skewed by the preferences of these groups 3.

This article addresses some of the impacts that local elections have on Latah County residents. Local elections differ from national and state elections in having non-partisan elected positions. National and state elections are partisan; the candidates are part of a recognized political group (ex: Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, etc.) with defined goals and values. The intent of non-partisan local positions is to serve the public good without political influence. Local elections have both partisan (City Council, County Commissioners) and non-partisan candidates (ex: school trustees, library, some judges).

All working residents of Latah County who do not own a home who do not vote in local elections are missing an opportunity to influence the future direction of Latah County values and policies. Specific areas where your vote can make a difference:

1) Property Taxes: Partisan County Commissioners make an annual budget, the County Assessor values properties that directly lead to annual property taxes. If you don’t own a home doesn’t mean that property taxes don’t affect you; they are built into a lease. Property taxes pay for a broad range of services from Police, Fire and EMS, to the Cemetery and Library.
2) Education – Non-partisan public school Trustees are involved in school curricula and school library selections. President Biden’s Secretary of Education Cardona in a recent interview with the Associated Press said about parents ” “I don’t have too much respect for people that are misbehaving in public and acting like they know what’s right for kids.”5
3) Library – A non-partisan library Board will select the types of books purchased and services offered. Will these selections represent your values if you don’t vote? 6
4) Population Growth – While Texas and Florida get most of the press, Idaho has the highest level of domestic migration (2020-2022) – 48 new residents for every 1,000 current residents. Do these new residents share your culture, beliefs, and values? Among other issues, this growth will have significant potential to impact zoning changes and water usage.

In summary, local elections have an impact on relevant issues that are close to home and family. Still think your vote doesn’t matter?



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