Voting is one of the most important rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy. While national elections often receive a lot of attention, it is equally important to participate in local elections. In fact, local elections are where citizens can have the most direct impact on their communities. Local elections impact citizens’ day to day lives more than you might think.
First, local elections determine the leaders and policies that directly affect our daily lives. Local officials make decisions about issues involving schools, public safety, transportation, zoning, land use, and environmental protection in your area. When citizens vote in local elections, they have a say in who will make these decisions and what policies will be enacted. These decisions can have a significant impact on the quality of life in your neighborhoods and towns, so it’s important to pay attention to local politics to ensure that you’re happy with the decisions being made.
Local elections often have lower turnout than national elections, which means that every vote matters even more. In many cases, local elections are decided by a small number of votes. As a result, every citizen who participates can have a significant impact on the outcome. By choosing not to vote, citizens are essentially giving up their right to have a say in how their communities are governed.
Local elections can also serve as a training ground for future leaders. Many politicians begin their careers in local government, where they learn about the issues facing their communities and develop the skills needed to be effective leaders. Voting in these smaller elections gives citizens the opportunity to support and encourage promising leaders who may one day represent them at the state or national level.
Elected officials can also be held accountable through local elections. When citizens cast their vote, they send a message to officials that they are paying attention and expect them to deliver results. If they do not meet these expectations, citizens have the power to vote them out of office and elect new leaders who they think will better represent their interests. Citizens also have easier access to meeting with local officials to discuss issues they feel are affecting them and their community.
Finally, local elections can help build a sense of community and civic engagement. When citizens come together to participate in this democratic process, they can build relationships and work together to make their communities stronger. By voting in local elections, citizens demonstrate their commitment to their communities and their willingness to work towards a common goal to better themselves and their surroundings.
A senior homeland security student said, “I volunteered to help a grassroots campaign in my community. Civic engagement is a great way to feel connected to home and what’s going on around you.”
The primaries are slowly approaching in New Jersey. The Board of Education, General Assembly, and state Senate are some of the positions that communities will be voting on. In Monmouth County, Senator Vin Gopal and General Assembly candidates Dr. Margie Donlon and Luanne Peterpaul are running as Democrats in Legislative District 11.
Gopal currently serves as a Democratic member of the New Jersey Senate, representing LD11 which includes towns such as Long Branch, Red Bank, Freehold, Asbury Park, and Neptune. He was first elected to the Senate in 2017 and was reelected in 2021. Prior to his election, Gopal served as a member of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders. He is known for his advocacy on issues related to education, healthcare, environmental protection, and economic development. He is also known for his community service and his involvement in the betterment of Monmouth County.
Donlon has served her community by working with patients with injuries and disabilities. Along with advocating for these communities, she is also vocal about environmental issues. Peterpaul is a partner of the Peterpaul Law office in Asbury Park. She supports equal rights for all individuals, advocating for marriage equality in the state. She played a key role in enacting anti-bullying legislation to ensure that everyone is safe and free to express themselves without repercussions from others.
A senior political science student emphasized the importance of voting, “If you want to see change in your community, you need to vote. You need to organize along a set of issues and make sure to inform the public to get the results you desire.”
Voting in your community is more important than ever. Fortunately, candidates Gopal, Donlon, and Peterpaul are actively trying to better the community and do what’s best for Monmouth County. By participating in local elections, citizens can make a real difference in their communities and help to shape the future of their towns and cities for the better.