Woman and child wearing 'I voted' stickers

Why Parents Should Vote Local on Election Day

November 4, 2016

In the hubbub of this year’s Presidential election, it’s easy to focus all of our energy there or to tune out altogether. But did you know that in most major cities, fewer than 15% of voters turn out to vote in mayoral elections? That’s 15% of voters, not 15% of the city’s population. (The study did not look at voting for city council members, school boards, or other local races, but the numbers are probably similar or worse.) And local elections matter tremendously because they have a direct impact on what happens in your home, school, and workplace. A recent article from CityLab points out trends discovered in a recent Portland State University study. In addition to the shockingly low local turnout, most local voters are considerably older and more affluent than the population generally. In fact, the study found that:

  • The median age of local voters is 57 years old.
  • City residents 65 and older were 15 times more likely to cast a ballot than younger residents between the ages of 18 and 34. In other words, young moms and dads are less likely to vote in local elections.
  • Turnout varies dramatically by neighborhood. There are “voting deserts,” typically corresponding to less affluent neighborhoods and communities of color.

Healthy Babies Bright Futures’ Bright Cities program focuses on work that cities can do to protect babies, the most vulnerable among our communities. To be successful in our efforts, we need community leaders to support policies and programs that keep babies and pregnant women safe. Babies can’t vote. But their moms and dads can, and should. And here’s why: Moms voting locally can help ensure that elected officials care about important issues like safe drinking water that doesn’t come from lead pipes, homes that are free from lead and other toxic substances, improved air quality, better public health, and child care centers also free of toxic substances. Your vote for local officials can make the difference! There are more than half a million local elected officials in the US, including the ones in your community. Can you imagine if all of those elected officials prioritized the health of their communities’ most vulnerable residents? When you vote this Tuesday, November 8, don’t forget to do so all the way to the bottom of the ballot. Heidi Gerbracht Bright Cities Program Director Healthy Babies Bright Futures