Local elections: Where your vote actually matters

Some people have compared the experience of receiving one of Johnson County’s “I voted” stickers to falling in love for the first time.

Folks, I’ve got some terrible news: We’ve run the numbers, and that ballot you cast in the presidential race three years ago…it…it didn’t really matter a whole lot.

I know that’s hard to hear. And I’m definitely not saying you shouldn’t have cast it — people should take advantage of each and every opportunity to vote that they can. But with more than 130 million ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election and an electoral college process in place, one individual vote simply doesn’t pack a lot of weight at the national scale.

You know where your vote really — I mean, like really, really, really — counts? The local elections taking place here, in Johnson County, right now, on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019.

There are dozens of local races on the ballot today, from city council seats to Shawnee mayor to the Shawnee Mission board of education to the WaterOne board.

These are the elected officials who have the greatest impact on our day-to-day lives. They set our property tax rates. They decide how to best maintain our streets and sewers and parks. They okay development projects and contracts for teachers and cell phone tower applications and hundreds of other things that you will encounter in one way or another.

And their elections are sometimes decided by the slimmest of margins.

In 2015, two Roeland Park city council races were decided by less than 10 votes. In 2017, two council candidates in Merriam were tied after the polls closed on election day. Mail in ballots ended up deciding that race by two votes. That same year, two candidates had to flip a coin for a city council seat in Mission Woods after the final tally was tied.

All of this is to say: If you want to cast a vote that really matters, a vote where your individual preference has a decent chance of actually influencing who gets to sit in that seat and make decisions on your behalf, head to the polls today. Right now. Right this very minute.

The Johnson County Election Office’s voter look up tool is here. Check it out and confirm your voting location. (Some of them have changed since the primaries this summer).

Our myriad of voter guides are below. They’ve got detailed information about the candidates’ positions on the issues. Check them out. Head to the polls. Have an impact.

Voter guides