Why Local Races Matter Now More than Ever

May 21, 2020

Map of USA with voting booths overlaid

One of the things that this pandemic has taught us is that elections have consequences. So while we’re all focusing on doing what we can to stay safe and healthy, and helping to make sure that those around us stay safe and healthy, here at Ben & Jerry’s we also have our eye on Election Day.

The federal response to this crisis has been a mix of incompetent and negligent from the very beginning, but many state and local elected officials have stepped up and provided the kind of effective leadership we all need to get through this. That got us thinking about the importance of local, down-ballot races. The presidential contest understandably grabs a lot of the media’s attention, but local elections have a huge impact on our daily lives.

Coronavirus, and What It’s Taught Us About Local Politics

Many (though certainly not all) governors, from both parties, have received high marks for what they’ve done to combat the pandemic. Mayors also have played an essential role in figuring out how to keep their communities safe. And all around the country, as schools have closed, many for the rest of the year, local elected school boards are working with superintendents and other officials to guide teachers, students, and students’ families through this unprecedented time. The examples of effective local leadership, from Democrats and Republicans alike, go on and on. Local leaders all over America have been making difficult decisions every day, decisions that have undoubtedly saved many lives.


The Importance of Local Government

Crises reveal things about people and government that we might not have noticed otherwise. But the truth is that it’s been clear for a while how important down ballot races are to how we go about our day-to-day lives.

We get updates every day on what our senators and congresspeople are doing in Washington, DC, but how often do you hear about what your state legislature is up to? The truth is that state legislatures, compared to Congress, are very productive. Every year they pass bills that have a huge influence over what you can and can’t do where you live. (They work pretty efficiently too: in some states, including Vermont, the legislature only meets for part of the year.)

The truth is that a lot of the things we have to deal with every day are decided at the local level:

  • A good portion of our local taxes goes to fund education, and local school boards have a big say in how that money gets spent.
  • If you’re tired of driving into potholes on your commute to work in the city, and you start to wonder why you can’t take a bus or a train instead, you should talk to your mayor.
  • Mayors, more so than most national governments, are also leaders in the fight against climate change. Want your city to go carbon-neutral? You know who to call.
  • Local prosecutors are the single most powerful people in the criminal justice system when it comes to deciding who goes to jail or prison and who doesn’t.

And that’s just a few examples. Most of the things that impact your daily life happen on a local level and are influenced by local politics, but because we are bombarded by national stories every moment of every day, we find ourselves thinking nationally, not locally. It’s time for that to change.


What We Can Do This Election Day

The most important thing we can do is vote—not just for president, but for every race on the ballot. Register now! Think you’re registered but aren’t totally sure? No problem. Find out here.

We’re all really busy, though, especially now, and a lot of us may not know who our local state representatives or prosecutor is. A good place to start is your state’s department of elections. You’ll be able to get info on upcoming elections and who’s running in them. Also check out your local newspaper or your town or city’s municipal website, which typically has information about how to get in touch with elected officials if you have questions about where they stand on the issues.

This has been a difficult time for so many, but the pandemic has shown us the importance of electing leaders at every level who put the health and safety of everyday people first. This Election Day, make your voice heard! Every vote matters, and so does every single race on the ballot.