Why Local Government Matters & How To Get Involved

1. Local government is directly responsible for serving your community.

While federal elections receive the majority of press coverage and campaign financing, local elections affect most aspects of everyday life in your city. The most pressing local issue of our time is policing and public safety, and this is the charge of your local city government. Your State and local officials generally set the policies that are followed by police.

Mayors and Attorney Generals are especially influential when it comes to policing and public safety. This is because in most cities, mayors appoint police chiefs and district attorneys decide whether to file charges for police misconduct. The Mayor and AG are either elected or appointed positions, which can appear on the local ballot.

Other things your local government manages are:

  • Local schools and education
  • Affordable housing and rent costs
  • Public transit
  • Alcohol and marijuana ordinances
  • City colleges and job training programs
  • City waste and recycling programs

In Sum: Your local government has the money and power to decide the policies your community lives by. In this way, the local government directly affects the safety and quality of life for all city residents.

2. State and local governments craft policies that can be implemented at a national level.

Many landmark federal policies first originated at the local level and local politics have a history of change making on a national level. National policies such as women’s suffrage, minimum wage, environmental protection, and marriage equality all began at the local and state level.

For example, during the United States Conference of Mayors, which the mayors of 1,400 US cities participate in, conference members speak with a united voice on organizational policies and goals. Mayors also contribute to the development of national urban policy by serving on one or more of the conference’s standing committees.

During the Conference’s Annual Meeting in June, standing committees recommend policy positions they believe should be adopted by the organization. At this time, every member attending the annual meeting is given the opportunity to discuss and then vote on each policy resolution. Each city, represented by its mayor, casts one vote. The policy positions adopted at the annual meeting collectively represent the views of the nation’s mayors and are distributed to the President of the United States and Congress.

3. Your vote can create change.

In general, only 1 in 5 voters participate in off-year local elections — meaning your vote at the local level can have an more significant impact. Plus, if you’re a voter and help to rally local voter participation, your elected officials are likely to be more responsive to your needs and interests. And if they aren’t, you can help to vote them out.

why local elections matter & how to get involved

Because local elections generally do not get the press coverage they deserve, stay alerted to the who, what, and where of your local elections by signing up for a service like Rock The Vote and finding out who’s in charge of your local elections.

How To Get Involved:

  • Vote
  • Get your friends and family to vote
  • Volunteer with grass roots organizations in your community
  • Volunteer with Rock The Vote to get out the vote
  • Run for local government office (I.e. city council)
  • Attend local town halls and make your voice heard
  • Take action on issues that matter to you

Help Expand Access To The Ballet To Disenfranchised Communities and Native Voters:

COVID-19 has made it clear that more options, such as in-person early voting and no-excuse absentee vote-by-mail are needed in all 50 states. Elections should not entail having to choose between safety and our right to vote. Furthermore, access to the ballot box shouldn’t depend on where one lives.

The Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (NDEBA) of 2020 would mean significant progress toward improving ballot access, including:

  • Ensuring all states allow no-excuse vote-by-mail
  • Extending deadlines for voter registration, mail ballot requests, and ballot returns
  • Protecting access for disenfranchised communities, including voters with disabilities, young people, and Native voters
  • Expanding in-person early voting
  • Providing critical election funding, including for mail voting

Elections must be strengthened to ensure a resilient democracy.

Click this link to fill out a quick form in support of NDEBA.

Other Important Bills Re: Policing and Public Safety:

U.S. Representative Justin Amash’s “Ending Qualified Immunity Act,” would allow civil lawsuits against police, a recourse that the Supreme Court has all but extinguished.

Plus, read more about Congress’s bipartisan push to cut off police access to military-style gear, here.

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