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Spartan Shield

The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

Differences in turnout for national and local elections reveal political priorities of voters

Senior+and+first+time+voter+Owen+Stoltz+votes+in+the+2023+election.+Although+important+to+local+politics%2C+voter+turnout+is+much+lower+in+elections+without+national+races.%0A
Owen Stoltz
Senior and first time voter Owen Stoltz votes in the 2023 election. Although important to local politics, voter turnout is much lower in elections without national races.

It is November again, which means one thing: election season.

Whether people love it or hate it, voters make their way to the polls annually to uphold their civic duty by casting ballots for the candidates they believe will have the best impact on themselves and their city, state or country as a whole.

As this year’s election season wrapped up, months of campaigning culminated with the elections on Tuesday, Nov. 7. One year removed from the crucial 2022 midterm elections and one year away from the highly anticipated 2024 election, which will feature a presidential race and a variety of House and Senate seats, this third year election is often overlooked by many voters.

Although other states had key higher level seats up for grabs this year, including the office of the governor in Kentucky and Mississippi and both houses of the state legislature in Virginia, the candidates on the ballot in Iowa were local.

The ballot for most Pleasant Valley voters featured the Bettendorf mayoral race, the highly contested PV School Board election and various city council seats. Despite their importance to the local community, these races have historically lacked in voter turnout compared to their national counterparts.

Even with the increased publicity of this year’s school board races, each district garnered less than 1500 voters. In total, for Scott County, just 22,188 out of the eligible 127,534 voters cast a ballot in this year’s election, just a 17.4 percent turnout.

Comparatively, the voter turnout in national elections is exponentially higher. Even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, turnout was 66.8 percent in the 2020 presidential election. For the 2022 midterms, this number was 52.2 percent.

This raises the question: why do so few people vote in their local elections?

Senior Margil Sanchez Carmona voted for the first time in the 2023 election. He explained his reasoning behind voting in a traditionally low turnout election. “I voted because I knew a lot of my concerns were on the ballot. As a student, I felt voting in the school board election would allow me to have an active role in my education, which is a special thing,” he stated.

Looking at the issue from a policy perspective, local elections have the largest impact on people’s daily lives. School board members work on education policies that impact children every day. Mayoral and city council positions set funding for police and fire services and determine housing policy, public services and transportation.

AP US government and politics teacher Joe Youngbauer believes that local politics are crucial to communities and demonstrates that by voting in local elections, but this wasn’t always the case. “When I was a young voter, say 18 through 24 or 25 I don’t think that I ever did [vote in local elections]. It was presidential elections. As I’ve gotten older and had children, [I started voting]. I’m a teacher so the school board should already matter to me but I didn’t [vote] until I was a little bit older,” he explained.

Youngbauer also discussed the importance of local politics that pushed him to begin voting. “I see the way that local government impacts our day to day lives, my perspective has changed being a homeowner. It absolutely matters. The amount of growth in Bettendorf and what that entails, the infrastructure that has to be built, that stuff is impactful. We need to know what’s going on and have a gauge of who our elected representatives are and what their values and beliefs are,” he said.

However, unlike Youngbauer, many people lack the knowledge of candidates in these elections to make informed decisions. In national elections, prospective voters can simply search up a candidate on the internet and receive a variety of information about their positions from multiple points of view. This is not always available for local candidates.

Youngbauer elaborated on this issue. “I think that obviously the media plays a huge role and when we are talking about national level elections, you can’t run away from the media tensions. The president is the highest, but also congressional. We have a constant barrage of information and candidates but also obviously that’s a longer term trend, but here more recently I think political engagement, political concern is at a very high level, he elaborated.”

In addition to a lack of information, low turnout in these elections is also caused by a lack of political affiliation for local politicians and school board members. Many voters in presidential and midterm elections can vote based on the letter next to a candidate’s name which signifies the political party that they are registered for. This makes it easy to avoid researching individual candidates’ positions, something that is required for local candidates, as most are not politically affiliated.

Despite the importance of national elections, which receive the highest turnout, voters are electing people who have less impact on their day to day lives than local politicians. The decisions of the president have little to do with individual communities and while senators and representatives have more impact, it is still trivial compared to local politicians.

Sanchez Carmona believes that local politicians can have a huge impact on communities. “Local politics are important because so much of it is a lot more direct than people think it is. These are politicians who could live a couple houses down from you and will make decisions about your community. It’s important that everyone acknowledges that so we can all participate in public processes as a democratic community,” he explained.

Despite being historically low, turnout in local elections is rising in the Pleasant Valley area. While overall turnout might not be increasing, more publicity is being generated for school board elections because of increased political polarization. Whether the cause of increased publicity is a good thing is up for debate, but more people becoming aware of local candidates is a positive for local communities.

While both national and local elections are important, making sure to vote for local candidates in addition to national ones could allow Americans to have an impact on creating desired policies that will affect them directly.

When Americans use their right to vote to the fullest, it allows for a more truly representative democracy to be created.

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Owen Stoltz
Owen Stoltz, Copy Editor
Owen Stoltz is a senior at Pleasant Valley High School and a copy editor for the Spartan Shield. His passion is bass fishing and he competes in tournaments both locally and regionally for organizations such as Major League Fishing and Bassmaster. He is an aspiring marketing manager, hoping to work for a fishing industry company managing the professional staff. Due to his love of business, Owen has taken or is taking classes including Principles of Marketing, Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting, and AP Macroeconomics. He also hopes to pursue a career as a professional bass fisherman. When he’s not on the water, Owen enjoys watching and playing other sports including football, basketball, golf, and wiffleball with his friends. Finally, he works at Dicks Sporting Goods House of Sport in the fishing department, passing his knowledge of the sport to others and supporting his fishing tackle buying habits. Owen can’t wait to write for the Spartan Shield this year!  
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