Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

WSU professors emphasize importance of local elections, government

Julia Thomas

Local elections tend to have a lower voter turnout than national or state elections, but some professors at Wichita State aim to change that by urging students to participate in local elections.

“I know there’s a huge disillusionment with politics right now,” Alexandra Middlewood, assistant political science professor, said. “And I know that voter turnout in the local elections are always low, but you really can make an impact, especially (at) the local level. 

Middlewood said local races can come down to just a handful of votes. She also pointed to the City of Wichita government’s impact on Wichita State students, even if they aren’t from the city. 

“They still live here 10 months minimum out of the year when they’re going to school, and so they’re still being affected,” Middlewood said. 

Chase Billingham, associate sociology professor, said that participating in local elections is up to each individual person, and it depends on how closely they feel tied to the community. 

While not all that happens in local government is exciting, Billingham said that these can impact what happens on campus.

“So much of the day-to-day life of living in a place is being decided at the local level, and so that’s really why local government is so important,” Billingham said. “It’s the closest connection that people have to decision-making power.”

Middlewood said in national elections, it’s easier for politicians to run ads and use social media as they generate more revenue than local elections. 

“If you get 20% voter turnout in a local election, it’s a big deal — which always makes me sad as a political scientist because local government makes decisions every day that affect our lives,” Middlewood said. “It’s not that state and national government don’t, but you feel the impact as a citizen of decisions made at the local level way more often than you do the state and the national level.”

While races are also taking place for positions on the city council and USD 259 school board,  Middlewood and Billingham said the mayoral race has the most traction, where incumbent Mayor Brandon Whipple will face off against newcomer Lily Wu. 

Middlewood said she wished there was more public opinion polling, something that Wichita lacks. 

“It is difficult to see or predict what is going to happen,” Middlewood said. “If you look at primary turnout, right, Lily Wu for mayor had a huge turnout in that primary. Could that mean that she’ll have a huge turnout in the general (election)? Perhaps, (but) there were a lot of other candidates in the primary.”

Billingham said that many voters are going to look at what the current mayor, Whipple, has done.

“I think a lot of (voters’) decisions are going to be made based upon whether they like the direction that the mayor has taken the city,” Billingham said.

How to elevate your voice

Both Middlewood and Billingham said that besides voting, there are other ways to have your voice heard. 

Billingham said many people get involved by directly contacting elected officials, taking part in public affairs, protesting or writing letters. Middlewood said running for office is a great way to be involved as well as sitting in on the various boards and commissions that exist in the various levels of government. 

“There are a lot more ways to get involved, to actually be able to contact your elected officials and perhaps see something that you really care about be a policy that’s implemented because they have fewer constituents,” Middlewood said. “They’re actually going to listen to what people want, and have an easier time doing so.” The general election will take place on Nov. 7. To check your voter registration, visit nass.org.

Leave a Comment
About the Contributors
Melanie Rivera-Cortez
Melanie Rivera-Cortez, Sports Editor
Julia Thomas, Former illustrator/designer
Julia Thomas was a designer and illustrator for The Sunflower.

Comments (0)

All The Sunflower Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *