Jambar Column: The Millennial Municipal Malady

By Jillian Smith

I am a political science major. As such, I recently performed a highly scientific, extremely advanced poll in which I asked a few friends of mine why they supported the candidate they did. Whether it was Mr. Trump or Ms. Clinton (controlling for one Jill Stein proponent and one VERY loyal Sanders fan), the overwhelming response I received was not a glowing review of their choice’s accolades, but rather, a laundry list of the wrongdoings or poor qualities of the other candidate. It seems that, if people are engaged at all in this election, it is more because they are of the #NeverClinton or #NeverTrump sentiments than they are enamored with their own candidate.

Now, this of course is not a highly scientific survey, and David Porter in the political science department would probably be mortified that I didn’t use the methodology taught in his American Public Opinion class, but numbers DO confirm my suspicions. The latest Gallup poll pins the number of people who dislike both of the candidates at a striking 1 in 4 potential voters. This number is even higher when analyzed in the 18-30 year old range, which is most of us at YSU.

If it feels to you like picking between these two candidates is like starring on an episode of Fear Factor, it may be time for you to be aware of the problem I coined just for this occasion, the Millennial Municipal Malady. (Thank you, I accept tips.). Broken down, the three terms mean “millennials,” roughly those between the ages of 18 and 30, “municipal,” meaning relating to the government of a city or town and “malady,” meaning an ailment or sickness. The Malady, as we’ll call it for short, is the issue that arises from the fact that we millennials have CRAPPY voter engagement numbers when it comes to local elections. This past summer, researchers at Oregon’s Portland State University studied voting patterns in local elections in four cities: Charlotte, Detroit, Portland and Saint Paul. While they found that overall, voter participation was a dismal 30 percent, a far more striking statistic was that the odds of a voter aged 65 or older casting a ballot in a mayoral election compared to a voter aged 18-34 were as high as 19 to 1 in the primary and 13.8 to 1 in the general election.

What does this have to do with the fact that you don’t like the presidential candidates? Because, I think a major fault of our generation is that we invest so much in the presidential races and are dangerously apathetic when it comes to local ones. What is the problem with this? National leaders don’t come from a vacuum. More often than not, presidential candidates get their start at the local level. (Let’s just ignore Trump for a moment and accept that my premise is generally overwhelmingly true.).

YSU, we miss out on a major opportunity to get candidates that we like by not having a share in their initial start: local elections. What’s even more upsetting is that we have every right to have that say. There are people who live in our own backyards whom we know and maybe went to school with, whom we respect, who run in local elections ad get defeated, without a single voice of our input, and we complain that we don’t like our national candidates. It may sound implausible, but that state senator you really admire and help vote into office could very well could in fact become the next presidential nominee.

Don’t like Hillary or Trump? Vote in an off-year election.