THINK ABOUT IT: Your vote is important

By Samantha Higgins
The Scene staff

This is a big year for national politics with the presidential election looming in November, yet national elections affect citizens far less than local elections, when voter turnout is much lower.

Many people don’t know who is running or what issues are being considered in local elections. Some aren’t even aware that elections are taking place.

Others feel their votes don’t count. When you think about it, that’s really sad. And wrong!

Local elections are where votes count the most. Let’s take a look at municipal elections in St. Louis County. According to the county website, 637,353 people were registered to vote in 2014 yet only 78,852 exercised that right. That’s 12.4 percent of the population, meaning 87.6 percent declined to have a say.

Some 659,827 voters were registered and 106,833 voted in 2015. That’s an improvement at 16.2 percent, but still 83.8 percent decided it wasn’t worth it to have a say in how their taxes would be spent, which roads would be fixed or who would control schools that their children attend.

I get that infrastructure isn’t sexy and will never become super fascinating to most people. I get that taxes are boring, and unless you’re talking about a refund or an audit, few care. I get that debates on road construction can be annoying, and people care way too much. I get it.

But grow up! Oh, you had to work all day and don’t want to read about tax percentages. Oh, you had to go to school and already read something today that was just as boring as the sounds of crumbling infrastructure. But you should read about this stuff!

You should care about what is happening in your neighborhood or town and how it affects your life. Do you hate potholes? Go vote. Are you tired of seeing abandoned buildings all over the city? Go vote. Do you want the quality of education to rise so your children will have a better chance? Go vote. Do you want different judges proceeding over your cousin’s parole hearings because there’s a judge who has it out for him? Go vote.

I’m not saying national elections aren’t important. You should vote in those, too. Do you not have the money to move to Canada if Donald Trump becomes president? Go vote.

To clarify for those who say “Our votes don’t matter, here’s how elections work in the United States:

The main levels of government are local, county, state and federal. Each level has elections. The most recent election in Missouri was the March 15 primary, which allowed members of political parties to pick presidential candidates for the November general election.

Municipal (or local) elections are held on different days, depending on where you live. In the city of St. Louis, they are held on the first or second Tuesday of April. That includes elections for aldermen and other officials and any propositions that are being considered. Propositions usually have to do with how to appropriate money that the city collects in the form of taxes.

The city of St. Louis and St. Louis County are holding municipal elections on April 5 this year.

Every two years, a state primary is also held. It’s similar to the presidential primary, except political parties are picking candidates for the state level, including governor this year. That primary will be held Aug. 2.

When people think of elections, they usually think of general elections in November. Mainly because that’s when we vote for big offices: president, Missouri governor, state judges, state and federal representatives, local judges and other local officials.

Many of these office­holders decide how taxes are spent, and it’s up to us who gets to wield this power. That’s the whole purpose of voting, really.

Oh, and regarding the Congress we have now that everyone’s been complaining about, all representatives and many senators are up for re-election in November. So if you’ve been complaining about how stupid Congress is or its inability to get anything done, you can help to bring in someone new.

Missouri has nine seats in Congress up for election on Nov. 8 this year. That includes one senator and eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In conclusion, if you don’t vote in elections, you no longer get to complain about potholes or Congress or the president. And we all love complaining about potholes, Congress and the president. So go vote.