Your vote matters (marginally)

Your vote matters (marginally)

By Aaron Strain / Opinion Page Editor

Your vote really doesn’t matter – for President in Kansas, that is. Where voting really matters is where it most affects you, your direct representatives.

Thanks to this thing called the Electoral College, your vote for Joe Biden, Howie Hawkins, Vermin Supreme, or even Donald Trump doesn’t amount to much in this solidly electorally red state. Arguably, the antiquated system is the primary driver of voter apathy, but that’s a separate issue.

However, being part of the statistic that makes sure Trump doesn’t win the popular vote in a complete landslide would be a neat feeling, depending upon your political persuasion.

Electing local officials who support your interests positively impacts your life more than tweeting about potholes or lacking public services.

Representatives and senators vote on how to allocate funds to highways, education and healthcare. District court judges and attorneys set legal precedents and resolve disputes. School board members decide how to adjust K-12 learning through COVID-19. City council members approve property zoning and community improvement projects.

All of these political positions interact with our lives, and we determine the people in them. Most of the races for these hyper-local offices are won by slim margins and could easily be swung.

Kansas House and Senate seats comprising the Hutchinson area are up for grabs.

Hutchinson Community College alumnus and incumbent Rep. Jason Probst faces a Trump-touting and anti-mask challenger.

The race for the 34th Senate seat remains contentious after the primary defeat of Republican incumbent Ed Berger. A Trumpian beat the former HutchCC President with an avalanche of dark-money-funded ads and a 16% vote margin. Shana Henry, the Democrat vying for the seat in November, has a real shot of winning in the otherwise hard-Republican district.

In this year alone, the victors of several other Kansas primary elections won by votes in the double digits – a result of low turnout. While more voters vote in general elections, the voter pool of local races still remains small relative to federal offices.

At the national level, Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1932. Barbara Bollier, a Mission Hills Democrat, could potentially break the 88-year-long streak.

Her Republican opponent, Roger Marshall, who once said poor people “just don’t want healthcare,” derides Bollier as an abortion-loving big government healthcare radical.

The claims deserve a chuckle and an “I wish she was that cool” from me.

Even though her milquetoast politics went stale back in the Clinton era, she is leagues better than Marshall, who thinks climate change isn’t real and that government agencies inflated the COVID-19 death toll.

Here’s the deal: electoral politics, at this time anyway, is a game of margins. It’s a rigged game, no doubt, but the differences between candidates are stark and, to be quite frank, threatening to the survival of our species.

Voting is not going to usher in a utopia or dramatically alter our society’s structures of power. If it did, we wouldn’t be allowed to do it.

However, the arc of history bends towards justice – though not magically. It bends under the collective pressure of people rebuking the status quo through all available means – protesting, voting and holding those in charge accountable.

Early in-person voting is underway at the County Clerk’s office in the Reno County Courthouse Annex. Alternatively, voters can request an absentee ballot through Oct. 27 at KsVotes.org.

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