Kueppers: Do not downplay the down-ballot

Albeit less glamorous or dramatic than the presidential bid, your local county and state elections are arguably just as crucial.

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Henry Kueppers

If you are religious, think of the down-ballot as David and the presidential election as Goliath. If you have siblings, think of your parents’ favorite as the presidential election and the middle child, who — for all intents and purposes — we’ll say is named something random like Henry Kueppers, as the down-ballot. And if you know how to read, think of the down-ballot as “a contest for a political office that appears in a relatively low position on the electoral ballot.” In these scenarios, like David, the down-ballot elections can prove to be mightier than the colossal Goliath, or presidential election. Furthermore, like the middle child, the down-ballot deserves to be told, “We love you, and you are the best, Henry.” (Again, totally random example). My point is, there is a reason this election season that people need to research and understand the importance of their down-ballots because their power should not be underestimated.

Your down-ballot is responsible for the election of school board members, city council members, county prosecutors, district attorneys and judges. And while probably 90% of people could not name their county’s district attorney (I’m guilty, too. Sorry, Michael Orville Freeman, you just weren’t on my radar), it should be noted that basically 90% of your day-to-day activities will be directly affected by these local officials, and not the ones in Washington, D.C. And that’s simply because politics are local. The president won’t determine what traffic lights to get rid of or add to your daily commute, or the amount bail will cost when you find yourself in the slammer for running all the new traffic lights on your daily commute. That’s all city officials, baby.

The down-ballot wields an unprecedented amount of power, yet similar to Mitch McConnell telling people he is a human and not a horrible, reanimated blob of stale tapioca pudding, no one believes it! However, on a local and national level, your down-ballot can and will affect everything.

On a local level, our representatives will be the ones to determine the laws and policies for schools (public and private), health care and policing. Policing is a gigantic discussion point, especially after this summer and the killing of George Floyd. In June, the Minneapolis City Council proposed to give voters the chance to decide if we should defund and disband the Minneapolis Police Department and create a “Community Safety and Violence Prevention department.” Unfortunately, this will not be on the ballot this November because the City Charter Commission declared that they needed more time to look over the proposal, despite the recent death of an innocent man.

Members of the City Charter Commission are appointed by the chief judge of the Hennepin County District Court. But who elects those judges? Why, by Jove, it’s us! Well, what about the governor, who can also appoint and/or promote these judges? Why, it’s us again! The power of all reform, policies and monumental change falls right into our laps, but because national media often focuses on the presidential election, we find ourselves forgetting about local elections and therefore becoming uninformed about what really matters.

Down-ballots are important to national elections as well. When the results of a down-ballot race flip control of a state house or senate seat, it can create new policies and reform that encourages the rise of candidates from a certain party. A great example is former Texas representative and singer of his college rock band, Beto O’Rourke. O’Rourke lost a historically close Senate race to Ted Cruz, but the fact that the race was even close to begin with was because of the changing landscape of down-ballot races in Texas. Before 2018, Texas was full of Republican counties across the entire state. However, year by year, Democrats increased their presence and campaigns and eventually began to win local elections little by little. This led to the eventual build up that pushed Beto O’Rourke so close to victory. It’s plausible now to think that, one day, a Democrat could win a national election in the state of Texas, a state that hasn’t been blue since Jimmy Carter!

I implore you to research your local representatives and their platforms. Find out what they are fighting for and what they would bring to local positions of power. For Minneapolis readers, check out the city of Minneapolis’s website. Use your resources and apply them to the choices you make on the ballot because this November, we will be facing one of the most pivotal elections in recent history. If you’re religious, think of this election as the determination of whether or not the four horsemen of the apocalypse will ride into town. Or, think of it as you are the middle child and this election will finally determine if you get a pat on the back from Mom and Dad and are showered with love and affection. I’m picturing it now, and I hope you do, too.