We often hear politicians and pundits claim that the upcoming election will be “the most important one of our lifetime.” I’m sure that phrase will be repeated many times in 2020. However, Iowans are impacted more by the elections for school board and city council than the ones for president or U.S. Senate. Local elected officials play a direct and immediate role in our daily lives.
Today, city and school elections will take place on the same day for the first time in Iowa. Previously, school elections were held in September, followed by city elections in November. The Iowa Legislature merged them with the hope that more citizens will make their voices heard by voting in these important contests.
Iowans are great at turning out for general elections and we consistently rank among the Top 10 states in the nation for voter registration and participation. However, our turnout percentages for city and school elections are dismal. Let’s change that this year.
As former mayor of Cedar Rapids and past president of the Iowa League of Cities, I can assure you that city government plays an important role in the lives of Iowans. If you live in an urban area, around 30 percent of your property tax dollars goes to city government. Decisions regarding streets, utilities, law enforcement, garbage collection and more are all made on the city level.
School boards play a major role in the education of our young people and these elections are important to your community even if you do not have a child enrolled in public school. More than 40 percent of your property tax dollars goes to the local school district. The quality of the school district makes a big impact on the quality of life in your area.
If you want to have a say over how your tax dollars are spent and the future of your community, it is important to vote in the city/school elections. When going to the polls this year, make sure to bring your identification. Voter ID is the law in the state of Iowa. For more information, visit VoterReadyIowa.org.
It is important to make your voice heard. City and school elections are about you, your family, and your community. Step up and be a voter.
Paul Pate is Iowa’s secretary of state and commissioner of elections.