The Importance of Recognizing Local Candidates When Voting

October 26, 2020

For Nora Robertson, senior, Nov. 3 is more than just an election date.

With nationally recognized names on the ballot as well as little-known statewide races to vote on, Robertson carefully researched every candidate that she would expect to see on her ballot to understand which candidates aligned with her political stances.

More often than not though, voters forget about the candidates that have a direct effect on them: the local ones.

“Whether it be a national candidate who will be sent to D.C. or a statewide candidate, I made sure that all the candidates I would end up supporting aligned with my personal views,” Robertson said.

Women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, civil rights, affordable and accessible health care, and decency are just a few of the important factors Robertson analyzed before casting her early ballot. 

Unlike the big-name candidates up for re-election like Senator Tina Smith and Representative Ilhan Omar (MN-05), state representatives and senators don’t draw as much attention during the election cycle, as televised campaign ads are scarce due to money, and voters are likely to vote down party lines due to their unfamiliarity with the candidates.

Mr. John Unruh-Friesen, social studies, stresses the importance of recognizing state legislators in his Advanced Placement (AP) government classes.

“A lot of students believe that all the decisions get made by the federal government in D.C., but a lot of ideas they advocate for, like the legalization of marijuana, happen at the state level,” said Unruh-Friesen. 

Another important issue that states will take up in 2021 is redistricting, which is the process of redrawing legislative districts.

Due to the census being conducted this year, Minnesota legislators will be redistricting the state maps, making this election cycle more important than previous years. As redistricting has continued to become a more partisan issue, Democrats and Republicans both see the importance of winning the Minnesota state house and senate. 

From police reform to education, state legislators take up and vote on a wide variety of issues.

You may faintly recognize their names due to the yard signs put up in the areas in which many HHS students reside, but many first time voters are often unaware of local candidates running in statewide races.

In the District 44 senate election, which represents a large percentage of Minnetonka voters, Ann Johnson Stewart (D) is running against Greg Pulles (R). In the District 46 senate race, which represents Hopkins among other cities, Ron Latz (D) is the incumbent in the race and is being challenged by Bryan Bjornson (R).

Young voters across the state continue to be motivated by politicians’ “Go vote” messages, but outside pressure is also pushing for the largest voter turnout since 1908.

From large corporations like GAP Inc. paying employees to become election judges to celebrities holding virtual concerts and events to get Americans registered to vote, the energy around being civically engaged has never been higher. 

Minnesota continues to be among the most civically active and engaged states in the country, as voters flock to the polls at the highest rates and young voters in the state have the highest turnout compared to young voters in other states. 

In the 2018 midterm elections, Minnesota had the highest voter turnout at 64.20 percent and had the highest voter turnout in the 2016 general election at 74.7 percent. Among youth voters, turnout was at 43.7 percent in the 2018 midterm, which was the highest in the country for youth voting, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website. 

“Voting is very important because not only is it a right, but also a privilege. Young people should especially be paying attention to what’s going on in the country and becoming civically active because we are ultimately making decisions for the next decade and beyond,” Robertson said. “We need to elect candidates that represent what we envision for our future.”

Because of the excitement surrounding voting in 2020, state candidates should expect to see increased votes, as they get the recognition they deserve as government officials.

At the end of the day, party and ideology will always be important when choosing candidates on your ballot. For Robertson though, decency and the personal qualities of the candidate are equally important, if not more. 

“I always will vote for a person over a party no matter what. Yes, I want the politicians to have similar views as me, but decency and knowledge are also very important qualities in a candidate,” Robertson said. “So when it came to local candidates, it was important for me to find out who they are as politicians, but most importantly who they are as people.”

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