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It’s important to vote in every election

In fact, matters ‘even more’ in low-turnout cycle

On Tuesday, Pennsylvanians will cast their votes in local elections.

While there are no federal- or state-level legislative offices on the ballot this year, these local municipal elections are an important feature of our democracy.

Our local governments set and implement policies that have a great impact on our daily lives and we have the power to choose our elected officials.

It is important to remember that your vote in 2021 is essential.

While ballots will vary from county-to-county, some of the races contested this year in Pennsylvania will include city council seats, mayoral races, and local school board positions.

Statewide, voters will be asked to weigh in on judicial seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Superior and Commonwealth courts. There are no ballot questions or statewide initiatives on the ballot this year in Pennsylvania.

Your county election board will likely provide you with a sample ballot on their website if you’d like to review your local races in advance.

Typically, voter turnout drops precipitously during a municipal election year. For instance, when the presidential election was held in November 2016, more than 70% of registered voters cast a ballot, while in 2017 the participation rate dropped down to 26%.

Think about that: For every three voters who showed up to the polls in 2016, two of them did not return to vote the next year.

That participation figure only accounts for registered voters; it does not include the many eligible voters who are not registered in their local jurisdictions.

In some ways, your vote matters even more during a low-turnout election cycle, because there is a greater chance you could cast a deciding vote in a local or statewide race.

The deadline to be registered to vote in the Nov. 2 election was October 18, so if you’re not already registered you will have to wait until after Tuesday to do so.

If you are registered, there are several ways to vote.

Pennsylvania is a no-excuse mail-in/absentee voting state, which means anyone who wants to vote by mail can do so as long as you request your ballot in time.

If you’re casting your vote by mail, your ballot must be received by 8 p.m. on election day, so be sure to plan ahead. You also can vote in-person on election day at your local voting site.

You do not need to have a photo ID to vote in-person, as long as you’ve voted at your polling site before.

For a list of acceptable forms of voter identification, contact your county election board.

It’s important to remember that your vote will be counted accurately and reliably.

Pennsylvania has implemented several policies to ensure the accuracy of the count and to address potential concerns about voter fraud.

In 2020, the results of the November elections were heavily scrutinized, both locally and nationally, and the final count was confirmed and verified by a non-partisan, post-election audit.

To learn more about election security or if you have questions about voting or your voter registration status, please visit https://www.vote.pa.gov/

Andrew Shelden is a communications consultant for the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health.

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