The Importance of Local Politics

The Office of the Blount County Clerk is housed in the Blount County Court House. Photo by Janelle Piper.
The Office of the Blount County Clerk is housed in the Blount County Court House. Photo by Janelle Piper.

There is a major election happening in the United States this year, and it is not the presidential election. The election is for the next Blount County Clerk which will be held on Aug. 4.

A county clerk election may not be as thrilling as Donald Trump versus the world, but it is just as important. The local government plays a key role in how we function in our daily lives.

Jackie Hill, the Democratic nominee for Blount County Clerk, said, “Local politics are critical.”

The local government is the first point of contact when it comes to interaction with the state. Our first responders, school budgets and the amount we pay in taxes are all managed under the local government.

Even things as personal as obtaining a marriage license is in the hands of a local official, the county clerk. This position holds quite a bit of importance to Blount county. “Blount County clerk provides a variety of services to Blount County citizens,” said Hill. As well as issuing marriage licenses, the clerk’s office is in charge of tag renewals, issuing business licenses and handling many of Blount Countians’ most important documents.

Another thing that county clerks manage is a citizen’s time. Considering the business of a county clerk, many will have to spend time in their office. This can be really challenging for people who cannot afford to have their time spent in an office.

Valuing other people’s time is something Hill plans to focus on if elected. “I will go in realizing the importance of time,” said Hill. Being a college student and a wage earner, I know the importance of time.

With the many ways local government can impact the everyday life of American citizens, I would expect more attention would be paid to this election. However, this is not the case. The lack of attention is not abnormal for local elections.

Hill mentions that people typically do not have the same appreciation for local politics as they do federal politics, and she would be right.

The University of Wisconsin studied voter turnout in local elections across the country. In 2011, less than 21 percent of eligible voters showed up to the polls. In the last presidential contest, voter turnout was nearly 55 percent.

Low voter turnout can have a great impact on the local level. If there is low participation, the group of voters can be unrepresentative of the population. This can leave the most marginalized groups, like minorities and the poor, underrepresented.

Lack of participation in local politics can lead to businesses not being opened, potholes not being filled and schools being underfunded. All of which can have long-term effects on the lives of most if not all individuals.

“I don’t believe people really appreciate the impact of local decisions or local politics,” said Hill. I think it is time that we focus on our local elections in the same fashion we focus on federal elections. The consequences of not doing so can be far reaching.

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