OPINION: Your vote is powerful in local elections


Youth are the future of this country, but being the future does not mean we have no say in the present.

According to the Texas Secretary of State’s website, about 14 percent fewer Texas registered voters showed up to the polls in the 2018 non-presidential election than in the 2020 presidential election.

That neglect must end with us. These invisible realms of politics impact our daily lives far more than what goes on in Washington D.C.

For example, Texas schoolboards determine a lot about the education that K-12 students receive. A well-educated society is better equipped to confront its problems and run its institutions in equitable ways.

Comprehensive sex education programs help lower the rates of STDs and unintended pregnancies. However, the Texas State Board of Education refuses to teach about consent and requires students to opt-in to programming.

Additionally, the wider range of quality books that students have access to, the more they will be encouraged to think critically. Students can learn to question what they’ve always known, leading to progress both in the individual and society.

Many of these books have been brought under review in school libraries across the state, such as This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell, which received heat from Carroll ISD per NPR. Books like these teach kids how to identify injustice and asserts taking a stand against them. If children do not have access to these thought-provoking works, it’ll be harder for our generation to break the cycles of hate that continue to exist. Consciously voting in schoolboard elections gives younger students their best chances at true success.

Our votes have more impact than we believe. Most police chiefs are appointed by mayors or city managers. These officials are often appointed by city councils. If you want to see positive reforms within your local police department, it helps to support city council candidates that align with your views.

City councils also determine how much you pay in taxes and where they’re spent. The only way to ensure that your community’s needs are being understood is by actively engaging with your local government.

The same principle applies to all levels of government, where the fight for abortion rights is currently playing out.

Because of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, access to abortion is now completely determined by each state. This is yet another reason why it is so important to vote in state elections. The task laid out before us might seem daunting but if we choose to prioritize action over apathy, we can make waves.

By nature, local forms of government are more accessible than the federal tier, but they’re easier to influence. The lack of attention toward state politics produced an environment where lobbyists are free to swarm.

Take Gov. Greg Abbott for example, who refuses to sign much-needed regulations on Texas’ energy industry. It’s no coincidence that his top five donors consistently include two energy tycoons: Javaid Anwar and Kelcy Warren.

Following the winter storm of 2021, Abbott made sure the state legislative session did not produce quality punishments for the energy companies’ malpractice. The Texas Tribune reported that he received around $4.6 million from the industry, including $1 million from Warren, whose company brought in $2.4 billion from the disaster alone.

If we put energy into creating and sustaining grassroots campaigns for progressive candidates, we can lessen the power that these anti-democratic forces have.

In Texas, state representatives and senators hold office for two and four years respectively. Because their terms are relatively short, they are (in theory) forced to attend to the demands of their constituents for a chance at reelection.

But that ideal is rarely a reality, as we allow their actions to go undetected. Only by unifying as a body of political watch dogs can we hold them accountable to the will of the people.

Furthermore, the more we vote, the more candidates will have to consider our desires and goals when running for office.

We cannot let the leaders of this state continue to pull it in a direction that neither serves Texans nor reflects their values. Alternatives are all down the ballot, starting with Beto O’Rourke at the top.

It is our job to make sure these candidates get elected – it is our job as the future to secure a future for all.