Do Local Elections Matter?

Getting Out the Vote at Hope Street

As another election nears and it feels like the constant stream of mailers, lawn signs, text messages and television ads may never end, it’s easy to wonder “what does it all mean”? Election season sometimes seems to highlight the questions and uncertainties that many of us are living with on a daily basis. For those who have experienced homelessness, those feelings are usually amplified.

Throughout the months leading up to the election, Catholic Charities’ advocacy team has been working hard to engage our residents, guests, and neighbors to connect them to voting resources. On a chilly fall evening, I joined Advocacy Coordinator Lily Hijazi-Sacay and Social Justice Education Manager Mike Rios-Keating at Hope Street for Youth. On the agenda was a “Get out the Vote” workshop, aimed at creating a dialogue around the power of voting and to encourage our young guests to exercise their rights this November.

Hope Street provides shelter and supports for young people aged 18 to 24, so many of our guests have only been eligible to vote for a short time. Lots of good questions were asked, and I came away with a few key points from the workshop:


1. Consider Your Passions

To begin the workshop Rios-Keating simply asked, “what are you passionate about?”. This question was not rhetorical, rather an invitation for each person to reflect and share something that they deeply care about. From drawing to the oceans, everybody was passionate about something.

When we consider what we are passionate about in our own lives, it becomes clear that not everyone cares about the same issues, and that’s okay—policies impact each of us differently, so it makes sense that our motivations for voting would also be different. What’s important is that we each have a voice and deserve to be included in the process of shaping our systems.


2. Yes, Local Elections Really Matter

When asked if they were planning to vote in the upcoming election, one youth responded, “I’m just going to vote in the big one in 2024”.

This spurred conversation about the importance of local elections and what a vote counts for during non-presidential elections—when voter turnout is historically lower. Hijazi-Sacay explained that local elections often affect communities and individuals more directly than federal ones. Local government impacts community issues such as social justice initiatives, public safety strategies, where and how money is spent, and who runs our school systems.


3. Politicians Work for You

The idea that all elections deeply affect our current and future communities seemed to carry weight with the young people gathered around the table. However, many still seemed to feel that the people we elect are the “ones in charge”.

To illustrate the structure of Minnesota’s government, Rios-Keating pulled up the 2020 Minnesota State Organizational Chart that boldly shows, “Citizens of Minnesota” above all. Hijazi-Sacay and Rios-Keating emphasized that whoever is elected reports to the citizens of Minnesota—not the other way around. We are the ones who can shape the future of our community and hold those in leadership accountable, making it as important as ever to vote!

Click here for voting resources!


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