Created by two friends trying to do better for their cities.

Introduction

It’s 2020, the world is quite literally on fire, and yes, there’s a presidential election right around the corner. Is this election important? Hell yes. Is it as important as everyone makes it out to be? Well...we’ve got some opinions on that.

Here’s a quick story. Last year, Anna was having a conversation with her coworker about elections:

Coworker: So you’re from Michigan?
Anna: I grew up there, but I went to college in California and now I’m in Boston for grad school.
Coworker: Well you’re definitely going to be voting in Michigan right? We need all the votes we can get there.
Anna: Well I haven’t lived there in a while so I vote in Boston now.
Coworker: How could you?!??!
Anna: I…
Coworker: I’m flying down to Alabama this weekend just so I can change my voter registration for the 2020 election because I, for one, care about women’s rights. What are you doing for this country?

clearly a bit dramatized for our readers but mostly true

We share this story because it illuminates two ideas we want to dismantle: 1) that presidential elections matter more than local elections, and 2) that voting is the only, or primary, way to “do something” about our society. After the shitshow of 2016, we’ve come to realize that voting for president is something that we don't really have control over (just another unfriendly reminder that T***p actually lost the popular vote in 2016). And while congressional elections are determined by popular vote, congresspeople focus on national issues that often have less of an immediate and direct impact on our local communities.

Two years ago, we created a guide ahead of the midterm primaries to demystify civic engagement at the national level. But the reality is that local politics shape our day-to-day lives more than national politics. Since then, we have been trying to make sense of the confusing hellscape that is local politics while documenting the process. The result is this website, a new guide dedicated to understanding state and local elections.1

We want to note that this is NOT a call from Uncle Sam to get out of the vote. Voting is only one of many ways to foster change in our communities. So we’re continuing to ask ourselves: what are we doing for our local communities -- the communities we eat, sleep, and breathe in? Our electoral influence is limited, but the money we spend, the people we interact with, and the communities we organize are all extensions of our political power. We see elections as a means to an end, and local voting as a byproduct of local engagement.

Like the story above, we see many of our friends move every few years but keep their voter registration in their childhood hometowns. It can feel unethical, even, to vote in a city that we have no established connection to. But without investment from the very people who live in the city, we let outside actors -- politicians who have never even seen the neighborhood and corporations who want to scale their businesses -- dictate our lifestyle. Our takeout orders are all delivered by the same handful of Silicon Valley startups, nearly everything we purchase online puts more money in Bezos’ pockets, and proposals for housing and retail in our neighborhoods are being shaped by international investors. Once we acknowledge where we are and begin to invest in the communities we consume from, we might be able to kick the corporate puppet masters out and keep our communities in.

The goal of this guide is to make local engagement feel more possible. It is really a document of things Rachel and Anna have learned/are learning, and we hope it can be usesful for you! In this guide, you'll find strategies for:

  • Staying up to date with local politics
  • Understanding state and local positions
  • Researching your ballot
  • Holding yourself and others accountable
  • Feeling connected to your city

References

1 Throughout this guide, we’re defining local as anything below the state-level.

Small Victories