In recent years, politics has been in a state of frenzy.
As we transitioned from the Trump administration to President Biden’s, parties have become more partisan than ever. Politicians have forgotten the importance of working together.
Right now, there is extreme gridlock in the government as President Biden is trying to push for both his infrastructure and reconciliation bills. Democrats and Republicans aren’t willing to compromise to come to a settlement on the legislation.
All these issues occurring on a federal level make everyone forget about the importance of local government. Many people don’t know what local government entities are, let alone what their local government representatives do.
With the general election approaching on Nov. 2, it’s important for the South Bethlehem community to act upon their civic rights so their local legislators can represent their residents when the federal leaders can’t get anything passed.
People don’t recognize that there is a lot their local government representatives can do for them.
Local government representatives can step in to focus on issues that resonate with their constituents on a personal level.
This year’s Municipal General Election will have several important local contests, including the races for Mayor of Bethlehem, seats on Bethlehem City Council, seats on Northampton County Council and all local Lehigh Valley offices in townships, boroughs and school boards.
On campus there have been many initiatives across campus to get out the vote, and students are being provided with information on how to register and where to find a local polling booth.
After a petition called “Hawk The Vote” circulated across campus last year, Lehigh students now have the entire day off from school to give them the opportunity to vote – a luxury that people outside of our school community do not have.
Even though voting is our most basic right as American citizens, it’s no easy task for certain individuals.
If members of the community didn’t register for a mail-in ballot, they’d have to figure out where their local polling place is, figure out how to get there in accordance with their work schedule and wait in long lines to cast their vote.
The reality is, very few people have the ability to dedicate their time, or care to devote much effort, to voting in their local election.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 305,285 residents in Northampton County, but election summary results show that only 45,531 voted in the municipal primary election in May 2021.
Bethlehem needs to do a better job at encouraging civic engagement.
According to South Bethlehem resident and community advocate, Anna Smith, another reason residents feel less inclined to participate in their local government is because there aren’t translators at local town hall meetings. This is problematic, especially since this community has a large Hispanic, non-English speaking population.
No one should feel silenced by their government due to a language barrier.
Having civic agency is one of our unalienable rights that must be cherished and taken advantage of by everyone.
Especially in a time where certain states are trying to restrict voting rights in efforts to push a political agenda, the ability to vote should not be taken for granted.
If you can vote, do it.
If you can help someone else vote, do that as well.
Stay engaged. Stay involved. Let yourself be heard.