Why local elections are still important

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When it seems like politics can’t get any worse, and you might have given up all hope — I know I’m almost there — there’s nothing more important than voting. There’s a common misconception that it’s only necessary to vote for president, but arguably the opposite is true. A big reason why you might feel disconnected from politics is that your views aren’t represented, and in a country with over 300 million people it’s impossible for the federal government to represent everyone's views. But the smaller the scale of government, the more likely it is to represent your views and create change that matters to you and that you can feel.

This Tuesday, Nov. 7, is Pennsylvania’s general election. For the first time ever, Carnegie Mellon is giving us Democracy Day. We have no classes before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, all so that every student on campus can vote. Not only is it important to vote so you get a say in Pennsylvania politics, the school will keep giving us Democracy Day if we have increased turnout from past years. So even if you don’t really care what happens in Pennsylvania (you should), go vote with your friends for the extra day off. Then go to sleep, relax, or catch up on homework. If you do care about the election but don’t even know who’s running, I’ll break it down.

Many important decisions are coming out of this election: a county executive, a district attorney, a country treasurer, city council members, and state supreme court judges. These smaller political positions and the large number of candidates might seem overwhelming, so you can find a breakdown of each position and the candidates running below.

As federal lawmakers leave more decisions up to states, local elections become exponentially more important. For example, abortion rights — which were returned to the states after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — are on the table in this election. One of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices, Carolyn Carluccio (Republican) is funded by anti-abortion groups such as the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation that opposes all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. Though she has never claimed to be in favor of an abortion ban, the fact that her campaign is receiving support from pro-life groups should be cause for worry. The state supreme court also makes decisions about the state constitution, taxes, and the court system which can have a large influence on citizens of the state.

Even if you’re feeling overwhelmed with the number of elections and candidates, just a couple of minutes of research can help you understand the choices. You can focus on just a couple of important ones and leave the rest blank or you can vote along party lines.

So instead of feeling disenfranchised or complaining about U.S. politics, we have a chance to use our vote for something that might actually make a difference in our daily lives, and definitely in the lives of Pennsylvanians. In a time where nothing in American politics is guaranteed, it’s important to use our power of voting to ensure our rights.