Every four years, men and women come along promising change and bread and circuses in an endless cycle of colorful propaganda and frustrations. Why doesn’t anything seem to ever get better? Schools still struggle to provide textbooks to children taught by teachers who feel abandoned, our roads and bridges are still falling apart — and don’t get me started on taxes.
Real change does not come from the magic wand of a presidential candidate, it starts at home in all the other elections on your ballot. Midterms may not seem important to some voters because you might only recognize a couple names on the ballot, a congressional seat or maybe a very ambitious candidate for a judgeship — no one who could “change the world” if you elected them. That’s the beautiful thing about having varying levels of government: Electing a new coroner won’t change the world, but it will make an impact on your community, the world in which “small” changes can make a big difference.
The most important thing a questioning voter can do is become informed. Inform yourself about the candidates, the offices and the parties. Before you go and vote or fill out your absentee ballot, research who is running for each office. Sure, you can just fill in the little party-line box and go get your “I Voted” sticker and go about your day, but you are doing both yourself and your community a disservice if you vote for people and the issues they represent that you don’t care about.
Change happens most successfully on the micro level, when communities can analyze their issues and decide how to best deal with them. National politicians do not care about school district funding and zoning or about preserving a cabin as a historic site. Local politicians that you can elect to city council can help ensure police and firefighters have operational equipment, fund snow and ice removal and make sure public libraries can keep their doors open. Judge positions exist to ensure the law is applied fairly to everyone. These are all positions that affect our daily lives, and it is our duty to hold our elected officials accountable to do their jobs by either re-electing them or electing a new candidate who could do the job better. Because it is your vote, in your community, you get the opportunity to show what you think is the best way to address the problems in your city and in your state. And most importantly, if you don’t have to vote for someone, don’t vote for them. Positions like city council can have multiple open seats, and if you only like one candidate, vote for that one candidate — unnecessarily voting to fill in boxes can take votes away from the candidate you like, possibly hurting their chances of being able to make the changes you wanted to see them enact while in office.
If you really do want to just check the “party-line” box, at least inform yourself of where each party stands on issues that you care about. Especially if you don’t think you align 100 percent with one of the major parties, really think through if you trust that candidate to further your dreams for your town or state while representing other ideas that you disagree with.
A good opportunity for Xavier students to have this experience is to attend an event like our Inter-Club Political PlatForum. Just because midterms don’t typically get 24/7 CNN or Fox News coverage doesn’t mean they aren’t important. The elections you see on your local news station are the most important elections of all.
Anne Marie Coriale is a senior business management major from Lexington, Ky. She is the principal organizer of this week’s Inter-Club Political PlatForum.