Down Ballot Candidates
by Cleonix Wagner
We tend to focus on the biggest positions in an election year. President, Senators, Representatives. Then, we go to vote and see that there are tons of people on the ballot we have never even heard of.
So who are these people?
Those are down ballot candidates and they probably have more impact on your daily life than you think. These are the people in charge of taking care of our communities and meeting the needs of the people who live there. From school board members to police commissioners- even judges, down ballot candidates make important decisions that impact your well-being and determine whether you have access to reliable services. These are things like public transportation, healthcare, and education. (Just to name a few)
“When you are in local government, you are on the ground, and you are looking into the eyes and hearts of the people you are there to serve. It teaches you to listen; it teaches you to be expansive in the people with whom you talk to, and I think that that engagement gives you political judgment.”
– Valerie Jarett
Despite how central these decisions are to all of us, down ballot candidates receive the least amount of votes. In a typical election year only around 50% of eligible voters bother to vote and around a third or more of them don’t even fill out the whole ballot.1 After all, what’s the point of voting for someone when we don’t even know who they are and what they stand for?
It’s time to change the way we think about voting.
The importance of down ballot candidates is hugely overlooked simply because nobody really knows who they are. More of us need to know about the easily available resources that we can use to get to know these candidates and their plans for our futures. One example is BallotReady, a service that will give you information on any candidate or measure on your local ballot. This is just one of the resources you can use to learn more about your down ballot candidates- there are a ton out there. If there are improvements you want to see in your communities, go out and make it known. Attend candidate forums or local meetings to get to know the people who are running to serve you. That’s exactly what they are there for.
Let’s open up conversations about down ballot candidates with our friends and the people in our communities. When we skip out on voting for local positions, we are giving up our right to choose the best candidates for ourselves and leaving it up to someone else. The information is out there. The right candidates are out there. We just need to get out there and make our votes count.
Ending Voter Suppression
By Cleonix Wagner
Voter suppression is not something new to this country. Discrimination at the polling place wasn’t even made illegal until 1965. (1)
And guess what, it is still happening to this day.
New voter laws that are aimed at stopping minority groups from voting are something that every single American should be horrified of. Let’s look at Union City, Georgia as an example. Here, voters waited five hours or more to vote in the June 2020 primary election- some of them didn’t even make it to the voting booth before the polls closed. This is a community where 88% of the residents are black. (2) To make matters worse, one of Georgia’s new voting laws makes sure that voters waiting in these lines cannot legally be given any water or food.
If you had to sit in line for seven hours with no food or water on a hot, humid day, how likely is it that you would just give up and go home? Especially if you had kids, a job or just about any responsibility that demands your time.
It is easy to see that these laws are designed on purpose to discourage voting and have an unfair influence over election results.
Is it a coincidence that these practices happen mainly in non-white neighborhoods? We don’t think so.
Unfair elections happen because Government Officials are aware of which communities lean one way or another on the political spectrum. For example, minority populations tend to lean more towards the left. Officials notice this and can then use their influence to pick and choose where to place polling locations in order to get more votes from areas that support their specific political agendas. (3) While this is entirely unfair and wrong, it is still something that happens in every single election. Why are we not holding these people accountable and demanding fairness from the people we call our leaders?
The only way these practices will change is if we are putting the right people in office. We didn’t choose these people who are in there now, but from now on we have a say in who we want to see standing up for us. Fair elections are a right we all deserve no matter our political, ethnic or social backgrounds.
We need good people.
By Cleonix Wagner
There is a never-ending mission that we all have a part in. A mission to create a more just world where we have good leaders that better represent all groups of people.
That is the most simple way to put it. We need leaders who are good people. We need to know that the people making decisions on our behalf are in the business of helping us succeed. Not in the business of personal gain. We would like to see more of these people in office, wouldn’t you?
And here’s the thing- these people exist everywhere. I know, it seems hard to believe but there are people out there who want to fight for you and help you succeed. These are the people who understand that when one of us wins, we all win. And these people want to be elected into office- we just need to know who they are, and help them get there.
Stacey Abrams writes, “Vote because we deserve leaders who see us, who hear us and who are willing to act on our demands.”
If you’re wondering what kinds of people would fit this role, visit runforsomething.net and look at their candidates for 2021. Run for Something helped elect nearly 250 candidates in 2020. These candidates consist of more than half women, more than half BIPOC leaders, and more than 20% LGBTQ+.1 Many of these people come from groups that have been consistently underrepresented in government- and they are looking to change that. Think of the untapped perspectives and ideas these candidates have that could change the world if we just gave them the support to do it.
One beautiful thing about our world is that we have such a diverse mix of cultures, identities and backgrounds. How great would it be if we could see this diversity reflected in our leadership?
This is why we want you to vote. It is time to nominate people who are there for the right reasons. We have the numbers to bring fresh, bright people into office but we need to take action to make it happen. Otherwise we will be stuck with the same cycle- feeling unimportant and unnoticed by our leaders. Let’s put our votes to good use and bring in a new wave of leaders that will be the reason our whole world changes.