by Kristin Gleichauf, Student Advocacy Fellow at George Mason University
“The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one’s country deep enough to call her to a higher standard.”- George McGovern
I believe the best aspect of American democracy is open dissent, and nowhere is open dissent more apparent than in local elections. Local politics is the experimental ground for a multitude of policies and political philosophies, all rooted in the ideals of your local community.
That is why I get so excited campaigning and contacting voters for candidates I believe in. I can find candidates who are still humble enough to remember my name and listen to my concerns in local elections. I have had the privilege of holding baby Elise when I got to meet NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia endorsed candidate Kathy Tran, where she recognized me from previous rallies and thanked me for my support. I know that for each voter I contact I’m making a larger impact on the results of the election than any national race. I know my actions are influential and vital to expressing my values in my hometown.
Traditionally, there is a sharp decline is voter turnout in non-presidential years and little awareness around state-level issues and how local legislators impact them: including right here in Virginia, where we have an election every year. That is why it is so valuable for a campaign and advocacy groups like NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia to mobilize volunteers to increase awareness and for voters to turn out to vote; you have a much stronger voice deciding your leaders at the state level than nationally. Even though you may not be knocking doors for someone who has name recognition all over this country, like the names Obama, Clinton, Bush, or McCain, that doesn’t take away the importance of your work.
I even find volunteering for local elections to be more rewarding because the general constituency usually doesn’t even know there is an election occurring.
I’ve lost count at the number of phone calls I’ve made where the voter wasn’t even aware there was a governor’s race and asked me basic questions like who was running and what Ralph Northam stood for.
There is much less stubbornness in a state-wide election, so people do not have preconceived ideas of your candidate and want to hear what you have to say. This way I spend my time informing voters of their civic duty rather than meeting someone with their mind already made up. I love the genuine curiosity people show in local elections that just doesn’t happen in national votes. So even though volunteering for the more eye-catching national campaigns may initially spark your interest, to me, the most rewarding work is volunteering for local campaigns: that’s why I encourage you to join us to get out the vote before November 7th!