“Did you vote?” This question on its surface may seem to be a few months late. Yet, this question is actually right on time, as there was a spring primary election throughout Wisconsin on February 16th.
After the state of Wisconsin saw a near record turnout rate of 72% in the November presidential election, many were not even aware that there was an election occurring this month.
This election had one statewide race, the Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction, with Oshkosh having two local races, one for the Mayor of Oshkosh and the other for three City Council positions.
The Superintendent has a general supervision over the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and by extension, public schools in general.
They have many different and difficult issues they need to address including: the state education budget, racial disparities in the education system, COVID-19 and remote teaching, increasing amounts of public funds going to private schools through the use of voucher systems and a drastic teacher shortage that is impacting both educators and students alike.
According to the Wisconsin Election Commission, the last time there was a state Superintendent race, in 2017, the voter turnout rate was 8.3%. Clearly this is not ideal.
Why would we want less than 10% of Wisconsinites to choose the person who is this crucially important? Similarly, why would we want such a small percentage of voters to choose our Mayor and City Council members?
A common misconception I have heard is that state and local governments don’t matter. Why would it? They don’t create sweeping policy change like Congress. They can’t influence policy or issue executive orders like the President.
They aren’t in charge of the massive federal budget. State and local governments spend roughly $2.9 trillion in expenditures in comparison to the federal government’s roughly $4.3 trillion in expenditures.
Yet, roughly two-thirds of the federal budget money goes directly to state and local governments, effectively doubling the amount of money that state and local governments spend.
The money that comes from the federal government is not spent and budgeted by Congress or the president, but by governors, superintendents, mayors and city councillors. This is why it is so dismaying to me that so few people were even aware of the election or the one that follows it on April 6th.
The vast majority of us UW Oshkosh students came from a public school with a large number of us either living in Oshkosh full-time or planning on living here full-time as we progress through our education. We should all care about who the next superintendent will be.
We should all care about who the next mayor will be. We should all care about who the new city councillors will be.
Letting those choices be made for us by a small amount of people is simply not okay. Less than 10% of Wisconsin voters should not be the ones who make this decision for the entire state.
I understand that we just had an election. I understand that this last election left many disillusioned with our democratic electoral system. However, I refuse to believe that each and every one of us should not be participating in this election.
I beg of you to fight through your election fatigue and remember this date: April 6th. You can register to vote online, through the mail or even in-person at the City Clerk.
You can even register to vote here in Oshkosh without having a permanent address, i.e. you live in a dorm, through the Voter ID Enrollment Verification program provided to all UW-Oshkosh students through the University TitanWeb.
We cannot allow less than 10% of Wisconsin voters determine our futures. We must vote and be heard!
Voter registration information and absentee ballot request information can be found online at myvote.wi.gov and the Voter ID Enrollment Verification can be found under the Personal Information tab in TitanWeb.