By Kalyn Story | Print Managing Editor
Before moving to Texas for college, I lived in Chicago my whole life. I have always loved Chicago, but when I left, I understood for the first time the phrase “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” In leaving Chicago, I fell in love with the city in a way I hadn’t before. And I started noticing all of the small things I missed when I left the city. I did everything I could to stay in touch with my hometown. I continued to read the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times every day. I often read the Chicago Magazine, Chicago Reader, the Chicago Defender and The Triibe online to keep up with Chicago news. Another way I have stayed connected with the city is to get involved in local politics.
I think most Americans would say that democracy and elections are important even though many registered voters don’t vote. We saw large voter turnout for the 2016 presidential election, and talk of the election and politics were everywhere. Research from the United States Election Project in 2018 showed that Texas was ranked 44th in voter turnout, with 46.3 percent of eligible voters participating in the midterm elections, which was a significant increase from the last midterm elections where Texas came in last with 28.3 percent of eligible people voting.
It can be easy to slip into the mindset that your vote doesn’t really matter, especially with big elections like the presidential election or even for Congress. With local elections, the power of your vote and your voice is much more tangible. I just mailed in my absentee ballot for Chicago where I placed my vote my next mayor, alderman, city clerk and city treasurer. Some of these positions may seem meaningless. But in Chicago at least, a position like alderman, essentially a city council member, can be easy for voters to overlook and underestimate the power they have.
While you’re at Baylor political decisions in your hometown may still affect you. Your local government might change the minimum wage and that may affect your job if you go home and work during breaks. If you plan on going back to your hometown after school or you know where you want to be, take some time and read about the local politics, what issues are important to that area right now and when the next local elections will take place. Maybe you registered to vote in Waco for the 2018 midterms, now what? Pay attention to local politics, find an issue you’re interested in or passionate about. Do some research and stay informed. Gaining an understanding of local politics will make it easier to stay informed and get involved wherever you end up. Make your voice heard.