A woman wearing a face mask drops her ballot into an official ballot drop box.

OPINION: The Importance of Voting in Local Elections

by Shasti Conrad

As we prepare for the upcoming Aug. 3, 2021, King County primary election, I find myself doing what I can from raising voter awareness to relentless canvassing, textbanking, and candidate support to channel that energy that we all had for the 2020 presidential election. On that day about 331 million Americans saw their hard work pay off in the successful transfer of power from one leader to the next (Although a small portion of those folks still question the legitimacy of that election, every court in America has found it to be true). On that day we, the American people, said “no” to the bigotry that many across the world thought was irreparably permuting our nation. 

While presidential elections may have been my start in politics, from presidential campaigns to the Obama Administration, I hope more than anything to leave a legacy as a strong advocate of local elections. In times like these where forests are burning, where many in our cities are unhoused, and where white supremacy continues to linger under the surface, local elections are the forefront of our democracy. It is incumbent on all of us to vote in every single cycle. 

We need to elect local leaders who have consistently shown a dedication to investing in our communities from demanding an appropriate sense of urgency for the Green New Deal, to fighting to bring affordable housing to the November ballot that is no longer beholden to exclusionary single-family zoning.

We need councilmembers who are willing to take the Seattle Police Department to task for their unconscionable actions, who want to root reform solutions in local advocacy as opposed to budgetary band-aids as has often been done in the past.

We need school board members who believe that an investment in our schools, in our youth and their education, is the only chance we have for our future. We need school board directors that are not only cultivating a more equitable future for our schools but also reckoning with past mistakes that continue to reverberate throughout the nation such as the school-to-prison pipeline.

We need port commissioners whose post-COVID-19 recovery plans give primacy to local businesses along with economic and environmental justice, who also recognize the debt we must pay to all the Coast Salish and Duwamish peoples, past and present, of the Puget Sound.

We need judges who not only guide and inform their municipalities through their proceedings but also teach and inspire them. 

Though it may seem to some residents, especially those of us in Seattle, that this is just another age-old race between the progressive and conservative Democratic candidates, that is not the case for all of King County. There are areas like Black Diamond and SeaTac where candidates are facing a battle against insurrectionists and “proud boys.” We also need not forget the unforgivable participation of Seattle officers in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Furthermore, Seattle also faces unique challenges this election season as the city’s widening wealth gap has been not only highlighted but also exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We need elected leaders willing to enact policies that go against the interests of big businesses and billionaire space vacationers. We need leaders in King County that understand the unique position and challenges this county faces, a county made up of 39 diverse cities with residents from all walks of life. 

But, more than anything, we need to go out and vote in the Aug. 3, 2021, King County primary election like 161 million American citizens — one of the highest voter turnouts in modern U.S. history — did in November 2020. Last year in King County, we hit nearly 90% voter turnout. For just as that day disrupted a growing narrative of the United States as a broken democracy, this Tuesday must demonstrate that we have not taken our foot off the gas here in King County.

Your vote matters, so be sure to cast it as ballots are out. Remember, don’t just vote, but make an informed decision for the future of King County and this country by learning more about the candidates. You can check out King County Democrats endorsed candidates here

Just as presidential elections do, local elections matter.

Shasti Conrad is the first WOC chair for the Martin Luther King County Democrats in Washington State, the fourth-largest county party organization in the country. In 2020, Shasti founded two organizations — Opportunity PAC and CTRL Z. Among her other credentials are serving as a senior staff assistant in the White House during the first term of the Obama administration and as a briefings manager on the 2012 campaign.

📸 Featured Image: A woman wearing a face mask drops her ballot into an official ballot drop box Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Burbank, CA. Photo is attributed to Ringo Chiu (under a Shutterstock license).

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