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The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Main Point: Local elections deserve attention

Illustration by DJ Ross

Though they’re tedious and easy for students to ignore, local elections are one of the most important parts of democracy in the U.S.

National elections are often common knowledge. They dominate both mainstream media and social media platforms, allowing people to learn about who and what is on the ballot. Local elections, however, get less coverage which often leads to low voter turnout. An article from The New York Times stated only 27% of eligible voters show up for local elections.

According to the Texas Tribune, “Texas was founded with one of the country’s most restrictive constitutions,” which limits what the government can do. Because of this, Texas is a state with an excess amount of elections to put as many offices on the ballot as possible to ensure citizens “[have] a say in their elected officials on every level of the government.”

While these elections were put in place as a positive measure, they caused voter turnout in Texas to be incredibly low, as people have trouble keeping up with each different election.

“I think people don’t understand the impact of local elections on their daily life and so they just don’t turn out for them,” Hays County Elections Administrator and Voter Registrar Jennifer Doinoff said. “People just lose track of when we’re having elections.”

Voter turnout in college towns used to be relatively low, however, it has risen in recent years, jumping to 66% in the 2020 presidential election according to a report released by Tufts University. While college students are showing up for national elections, it is equally, if not more important for them to show up for local elections.

Of 14 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution, there are two that students should pay attention to. Proposition 5 will allow Texas lawmakers to create a $3.9 billion endowment “to help other ‘emerging’ research universities” in Texas, including Texas State, according to San Antonio Express News.

Proposition 9 would authorize the state to direct $3.3 billion to raise pensions for retired teachers in Texas.

Every year, the Texas State Honors College participates in a partnership with the National Voter Registration Day program and has hosted voter events since 2016. Honors College adviser Michelle Sotolongo said the Honors College also works to provide election information year-round so students know what to expect.

“We encourage our students to be involved on campus, but also off campus in the community, and voting is a huge part of that,” Sotolongo said. “These things may affect them now while they’re currently in school. But even later on, you can see the ripple effect of what their voting could do for future generations of Texas State students.”

In national elections, it is hard to see the effects of one’s individual vote, however, votes in local elections show an impact almost immediately. Local officials, such as those in the San Marcos City Council, make decisions that influence the daily lives of citizens.

Sotolongo said city council has the power to approve new apartment buildings, impact affordable housing and other issues within the city that can affect students, even if they’re not directly tied to Texas State. Two city council positions, Place 3 and Place 4, are on the ballot this election.

College is often the first instance in which young adults become aware of their political environment. With the newfound right to vote, students begin to pay attention to national politics, and they get excited to wield their power.

Though this energy is important in national elections, students must realize their voices are necessary in local elections. The population of San Marcos is just over 70,000 people, with Texas State students taking up over 30,000 of those people.

Jacob Graybill, a public administration senior and student leader for Texas Rising at Texas State, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that strives to spread voter education and outreach to college students, said student voices are stronger when they’re organized and educated on local issues.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people draw a boundary between the locals of San Marcos and the students,” Graybill said. “There is definitely a group of longtime elites in San Marcos that really think the students should have no voice for how the city is. We, as students, really need to make sure our voices are heard in regard to making sure our rents are affordable, policing is equitable and transportation is better.”

Students must realize how important it is to show up for elections in San Marcos. The only way to ensure representation and to make a lasting contribution is to participate in local elections.

The Main Point is an opinion written by The University Star’s Editorial Board. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of our entire publication.

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