In the U.S., why isn't turnout and activism proportional to the impact the powers of the position has on the voter?

The Politicus
May 23, 2022 12:03 AM 0 Answers
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You would expect that elections which affect people more have greater participation rates and command more attention, relatively speaking, to the people they affect. However, city council elections, state governor elections, Congress races, and Senate runoffs tend to have lower turnout than the presidential election.

We've been drilled for years about the importance of local elections and their influence being greater than that of federal ones, so what explains this? Influence is defined as the power that the holder of the position has on their constituents through the decisions they make and the procedures they are allowed. For example, the president may pardon people, enact travel bans, or send armed forces without Congressional approval for up to 60 days. The state governor may enact legislation and allocate budgets for education or infrastructure working with the state senate, appoint local judges, and command the National Guard within the state.

Some responsibilities at the state or smaller level that voters overlook: interpret Supreme Court decisions (even before recent events, states wildly varied in what kinds of abortions were allowed), decide spending on education (there's federal funding and regulations, but what gets taught and how the money is spread out is almost entirely a state matter), regulate interstate travel and commerce (roads, permits for businesses, local taxes etc.), organize police and emergency servies, and decide zoning for housing.

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  • May 23, 2022