Are Local Elections a Waste of My Time? NPR WVPE 88.1FM Michiana Chronicle

You can Listen to this piece on NPR station 88.1FM as a Michigan Chronicle by clicking here.

Before getting married, I rarely voted in local elections.  I would vote only for presidents and when I voted it was usually straight ticket. I was raised to care about elections, I just didn't.   I got a kick out of my Grandmother Lutes' joke that she was a Democrat and Grandpa Willard was a Republican (or vice versa?) and so when they voted they canceled each other out. I thought, "Why bother?"

I was raised to care about elections, I just didn't.

After getting married, I usually asked John what he thought of political candidates because I knew he was smart and paid attention.  And he cared. I began voting in local elections because I was apparently a grown up and it was the thing to do.  I read apathetically about pending candidates and voted.  I voted.  And I voted.

NOW....after going door to door to get John on the Valparaiso city council ballot, after campaigning beside him, meeting other candidates, going to the forum and actually READING the newspaper articles about the upcoming election:  I care.  I know how foolish a person sounds who says "Ohhh... I don't vote". I want to ask if they have other people make all of their other decisions for them.  I realize that in not being aware and informed, in not caring much for politics, I let other people speak for me and they rarely get it right. 

I now realize my apathy makes my parents and family look ignorant, as if they hadn't coached, prodded and cajoled me to care about my own civic engagement.  After this campaign I realize how hard a candidate can work just to get their name on a piece of paper. And then again how much work and money can go into asking enough people to notice their name, to read that name and to mark the box next to the name. I know how important it is because I have done the work.  I have called voters, asking them to check the box next to my husband's name.  I know what I think of the person who says, "Oh, I don't bother voting in local elections."  

This man I married doesn't want fame;  he is an introvert.  He doesn't care about popularity.  He got a taste of public service in college and grad school  and he liked the deep work, thought and honor of it.  I love this about him even though I did not share his passion when we began.  After our adventure, after voting early with him this past Friday, after all the friends and family and neighbors handing him their money or their time or their encouragement, I share his respect for politics.  I am interested.  I am no longer apathetic.

I talked today about the change in me. I said I thought if people who do not care worked even a tiny bit on any campaign they might see it differently.  Please consider volunteering on a committee or helping a local or national candidate at the local level.  We feel so removed from politics that we think it doesn't matter anyway.  

My husband recently wrote, 
      "There have been a number of people I have spoken to over the last couple of years who express being disenfranchised by the local political process.  They feel their vote and their voice doesn't count.  Indeed in 2007 voter turnout in Porter County for local elections was 32%.  In the last local election in 2011, the voter turnout dropped to 25% in the county.  That kind of voter apathy could signal a type of learned helplessness that people feel when they have no say in our local representative democracy.  In fact, local elections probably have a larger impact on the voting public than any state or national election."  

John inspired me not just by his words but by his actions.  He put his passion into action and put his desire to work and it affected both of us.  Even our four and six year old daughters have stump speeches.  Just this afternoon I considered collecting signatures at the polls Tuesday to get Bernie on the ballot for President.  I decided to take this one election at a time.  

John wanted to run for office to serve his city, his neighbors, and to make a difference in all of our lives. I hope he knows the difference he has made in my life.  See the adventure we have had in pictures and video here.

Please vote wherever you are, for whoever you believe in, day after tomorrow, November 3rd, 2015.  It makes a difference.  You can make the difference.  Your vote counts. My vote counts too.

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