As pundits set their gaze on 2024, the future of America is at stake in state and local elections underway right now. In Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi, up for grabs are the roles of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. These roles control administrative priorities, set the budget, represent the states in legal matters and set policies for engaging in elections. Public policies definitely hit home. State and local elections have a direct, consequential impact on the quality of life for residents and members of the community. For example, mayors and city councils have oversight over policing and public safety, affordable housing, potholes and infrastructure issues. Despite the chatter about next year’s race for the White House, the reality is that state and local elections will have more of an impact on voters’ lives than what’s happening in Washington.
On the local level, school boards, judges, prosecutors, and thousands of other elected officials have been making decisions that affect all of our lives.
To prove this, think of what we’ve witnessed in the last year alone. Before the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationdecision, state legislators in Austin made performing an abortion in Texas a felony punishable by up to life in prison. In Florida, because of HB1557—a bill lawmakers in Tallahassee approved—a teacher who creates a safe, inclusive classroom environment for LGBTQ students puts their job in jeopardy. Without a shred of evidence that the state has an issue with integrity at the polls, Virginia’s attorney general established a so-called Election Integrity Unit in September, one of the latest in a long line of post-2020 voter suppression efforts. On the local level, school boards, judges, prosecutors, and thousands of other elected officials have been making decisions that affect all of our lives. When we consider the proliferation of white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia in American culture, our country would be remiss to ignore just how much power each of these offices holds and the harm caused to Black, brown and other historically-marginalized communities.
But in the midst of these threats to our civil rights and liberties, there also are powerful examples of Americans at the state and local level challenging the status quo head-on.