Home Noticias Your vote DOES matter: The importance of voting in local elections – The Independent Florida Alligator

Your vote DOES matter: The importance of voting in local elections – The Independent Florida Alligator

Your vote DOES matter: The importance of voting in local elections – The Independent Florida Alligator

Walking through Turlington Plaza, in between the chaos of students scrambling to arrive to class on time, you will undoubtedly be asked to sign a petition, join a political movement, or maybe even register to vote. To the average student, the nuisance of being approached despite wearing headphones outweighs the merit of exercising one’s civil duties, as there is a growing sense of voter apathy amongst younger generations. 

As a political science enthusiast, I often find myself nagging my less politically adept friends to update their voter registration and quizzing them on their governmental knowledge and more often than not I get the same response: “Why should I care? My vote doesn’t matter.” 

This is false. 

Your vote does matter, especially in local elections. Local elections encompass all the elected officials directly within our community — from county commissioners to the sheriff. The people elected in local elections have a direct hand in dictating the operations of everyday life in Alachua County. 

March 19 was not a local election but the presidential preference primary for Florida. In Alachua County there are 154,287 active voters, including 44,315 registered Republicans; however, only 8,502 of these Republicans voted. Specifically, in precinct 31, which encompasses most on-campus residents, only 14 people voted. Turnout numbers are decreasing; in the 2020 presidential preference primary for Alachua County, turnout was 26.62%, while turnout March 19 was only 19.20%. 

Local elections are much more important than most people think, possibly even more so than federal elections, because local officials are linked to your community personally. It is also easier for local positions to be held accountable due to them being directly within your area. Specifically students have the unique opportunity of being youth voters, a continuously underrepresented group. The 18-29 age group consistently has the lowest turnout rate, across the board. That means student voices aren’t being heard in elections. Meanwhile older age groups vote in more significant numbers.

There is a common misconception that due to “so many” people voting, a singular vote cannot change the course of an election, this too is false. Specifically in local races, like the Nov. 16, 2021 special election with no higher order races, turnout was only 13.08%. That specific race was for a City Commissioner seat at-large with five candidates. Cynthia Moore Chestnut won with 5,406 ballots cast in her name; however, there was only 563 votes between her and the second slated candidate, Matt Howland. Commissioner Chestnut continues to serve the Gainesville community as a commissioner and was recently voted last December to become the mayor pro-tem. 

But what even is the City Commission? In Gainesville, the City Commission includes seven members: the mayor, two commissioners elected at-large and four elected by district. The City Commission handles legislative duties within the community and creates committees focused on specific issues. For instance, within the county administration, an advisory committee is centered on obtaining affordable housing options within our community. From establishing safe crosswalks and managing funding for the RTS Bus System, to grants toward arts and beautification projects, our local elected officials make crucial decisions on things impacting you directly.

Your vote is your opportunity to make sure that your voice is heard. It is your way to make a direct difference in your community by helping you choose leadership that aligns with your values. The next election including local officials will be the Primary Election Aug. 24, 2024. 

The deadline to change your registration is July 22, 2024 with early voting occuring Aug. 5 to Aug. 17, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. A full list of early voting locations can be found closer to the election at: https://www.votealachua.com/Elections/Upcoming-Elections.

Morgan Vanderlaan is a UF political science and English freshman.

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