Local elections might be the most important in our system of government.
City, county and state officials enact the majority of laws that regulate our behavior and restrict our rights.
They allocate the bulk of the money that is parceled out by the federal government, state legislature and local taxing districts.
They decide on infrastructure needs, determine what projects will be undertaken, where and when, and they decide who gets the contracts to complete those projects.
And yet, voter turnout consistently shows that most people are interested primarily in presidential elections — and even then, roughly half of all those who could vote actually bother to do so.
Apathy is the most frequent excuse cited by eligible voters who don’t bother to go to the polls. They say their one vote isn’t significant. In addition to the many cases in which elections were decided by just a few votes or even ended in ties, every vote that isn’t cast strengthens those that are by reducing the pool of ballots.
If you’re a Republican the top of the ticket is set, but many more state and local positions are on the ballot. Party voters will decide who faces the Democratic opponent in November.
Democrats have even more at stake. Tuesday’s primaries could completely change the Democratic presidential race.
Distinct trends have emerged from the primaries and causes that already have taken place. Bernie Sanders has emerged as a clear favorite; the number of delegates who are committed to voting for him in the first round of voting in the party’s nominating convention is nearly double the number pledged to Pete Buttigieg, who’s running second. However, many analysts are quick to point out that Buttigieg and other candidates who are politically more moderate than Sanders’ democratic socialist platform have collected more votes and more delegates than Sanders, although those delegates are split up among the larger number of candidates who are still in the race.
All of that could fly out the window on Tuesday, however. Texas voters will distribute 228 committed delegates and 34 uncommitted votes, far exceeding the 155 that have been allocated so far. And Texas is only one of 16 states and territories that are holding their nominating elections this week; that’s why it’s called Super Tuesday, since more than a third of all delegates are up for grabs on this one day.
With so many convention votes decided on this one day, we could wake up Wednesday to a completely different political scenario.
A strong turnout of moderate voters could smother Sanders’ early lead, or continued support from socialistleaning voters could extend his lead, making his ultimate nomination even more certain.
Either way, Texas voters have a chance to be part of history, beyond the opportunity to choose their judges, legislators and other local state and local officials. They can stop a socialist-leaning campaign in its tracks, or give it even more momentum.
A few minutes spent going to polls on Tuesday could have an effect on our political landscape for a long time.