Yesterday I spotted a new political gem on my Twitter feed. It wasn’t a new meme-able quote from Trump or an update on Clinton’s emails, but a tweet from the Texas’ agricultural commissioner’s account called a presidential candidate the c-word (hint: it wasn’t “Clinton”). The tweet and its resulting backlash were entertaining but also a sobering reminder to look at local candidates just as closely as presidential ones.
Too often these state and local officeholders only enter our minds following some sort of political gaffe or controversy, like when the state board of education approved an arguably racist Mexican-American Heritage textbook or Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s arrest. But these offices control vital parts of life in Texas and deserve just as much thought and deliberation as your presidential vote.
Nov. 8’s ballot will decide positions for critical state and local offices as well as the higher profile national presidential and representative races. A full list of positions up for grabs can be found by entering your address into a “my ballot” search online, and the list includes vital positions such as board of education members and Texas judges.
So how do you find the right candidates? The Daily Texan has already released recommendations for Travis County sheriff, railroad commissioner, Congress, Proposition 1 and president of the United States, as have other local organizations. Voters’ guides by the League of Women Voters of Texas and other groups offer recommendations and information based on your address and personal political beliefs. Or, on election day, voters can cast a straight-ballot vote by choosing all of a political party’s candidates.
With these resources, a voter can pretty easily align their opinions with candidates. The problem lies with the motivation to reach out to the first place. As previously expressed, local offices don’t have the same public profile as a presidential race, but that doesn’t mean these positions aren’t equally important.
Voting on state and local offices first requires an understanding of what they mean. Take the Railroad Commissioner: The position was originally created to regulate the industry that bears its name, but modern-day commissioners are responsible for oil and natural gas production, as well as surface mining and enforcing safe water policies — not railroads or transportation. Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals is one of the last resorts for death penalty cases in a state with the most executions. Travis County commissioners are responsible for overseeing county departments, taxes and funding for projects. The list goes on, but the takeaway is that each position is more than just a title — they are real decision-making roles.
If you care about executions, school standards and materials, road congestion, county funding or taxes, voting on Nov. 8 will decide much more for you than just who sits in the oval office. This election day, vote down the ballot like your day-to-day life depends on it.
Hallas is a Plan II and health and society sophomore from Allen. She is a senior columnist. Follow her on Twitter @LauraHallas.