Women Need to Show Up at the Polls
Presidential elections held every four years are exciting. The campaigns are undoubtedly too long and too expensive, but they provide feverish debates and clever ads to watch, patriotic yard signs to view, political arguments to craft, and cute babies to kiss (unless there is a pandemic raging).
Municipal elections, though, which are coming up this fall throughout South Carolina, are quite a different story. Municipal elections tend to be low-key and unobtrusive. The result? Most people don’t bother to trek to the polls to choose their mayor, city/town/county council members, school board members, and other local officials.
In fact, nationwide, only 27 percent of eligible voters vote in the typical municipal election. That’s a shame because low turnout means that an unrepresentative group of residents gets to choose the men and women who decide issues that have a huge impact on our daily lives.
- School boards set the policies that determine how our kids’ and grandkids’ schools operate. These boards also have a big say on how on our local school taxes are spent.
- Mayors and city/town councils are responsible for providing clean water as well as sewage and garbage disposal. They maintain city facilities such as parks, streetlights, and stadiums. They fix potholes. They maintain zoning and building regulations, promote economic development, and provide law enforcement, public transportation, and fire protection.
- County councils set the policies to collect taxes, assess property, conduct elections, issue licenses, and provide parks, libraries, public assistance, hospitals, clinics, and emergency management services.
This is just a partial list of what municipal officeholders do. And yet, local elections are often decided by a handful of votes. Consider Jesica Mackey, who represents the northeast part of Richland County on Richland County Council. She won her special Democratic primary runoff in September 2020 by just 46 votes, then took the seat in the November general election.
Every vote matters, and the 137 women running this fall for a variety of municipal offices in South Carolina want yours. To see their profiles and platforms, take a look at SC WIL’s database for municipal candidates (https://scwomenlead.net/municipal-candidates-database/).
If we want more women in decision-making positions, women need to show up at the polls. One vote, in local elections, can truly make a difference.
Jan Collins is a Columbia, South Carolina-based journalist, author and editor.