It’s 2017, and your vote still matters
Amid the excitement of the World Series, the stress of midterms and the impending doom of finals, one major upcoming event has not been on the minds of most Rice students: Election Day. Contrary to popular belief, there actually is an election this Tuesday, Nov. 7, and it has received an abysmally low level of attention. In general, it’s hard to attract voters to a non-flashy local election, especially during an off-cycle year like 2017. In the wake of Harvey and last year’s fatiguing campaign season, the Rice population seems particularly disinterested in this year’s local elections.
Here’s why you should care about one of our most critical exercises in democratic power.
After the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, half the country felt empowered while the other half lamented their loss of power. A brief wave of activism emerged from those who felt this loss, but this resistant spirit has all but died when it comes to local politics. As for those who benefitted from the results of last year’s election, it is easy to become complacent with the status quo. Both groups--and all of those in between--should recognize that all politics are local, and the democratic competition for local domain is still alive and well — as long as it is fueled by voters.
Local government administers our schools, maintains our roads, parks and infrastructure, and ensures the health and safety of our community. As trivial as these things may seem to busy college students, they are all issues on the ballot this election. Six of the nine Houston Independent School District Trustee positions are up for grabs (including one in Rice’s district), along with five citywide propositions that, if passed, would allow the issuance of municipal bonds to fund our parks, libraries, fire and police departments and public sanitation services. If you live in Houston, these ballot measures can and will affect you!
Since this year is an off-year election, your vote also carries more weight than during a national contest. A prime example is the election of Rice alumna Juliet Stipeche, who won the HISD District VIII Trustee position by only 44 votes in 2010. Instances like this abound in local elections, where voter turnout is less than one-third of presidential election turnout and races can be decided by just a handful of votes. By this logic, your say could actually be the deciding factor in a tight election.
Voting is even more critical in a post-Harvey Houston. Our elected officials and local agencies play a large role in determining how our city rebuilds and how prepared we will be for future natural disasters. We as voters have the exclusive power of determining who will run our city, and local elections amplify grassroots power by allowing us to air our grievances at the polls and choose those whom we think will best support Houston.
Whether you’re a native Houstonian or an out-of-stater registered in Harris County, Houston is your home, and you have a responsibility to vote to help make Houston strong.
More from The Rice Thresher
Even if you aren’t one to keep up with the latest entertainment trends, you’ve probably heard of “Squid Game.” This new Korean Netflix show became the most watched show in 90 countries within ten days of its release, making it a larger global phenomenon than anyone likely expected.
Magdah Omer, a Baker College senior, discusses their upcoming exhibition, “be water my friend,” at Sleepy Cyborg, opening Oct. 15. Omer’s art featured in the exhibit explores the fluidity of self and identity and utilizes acrylic paint on various unconventional canvases, including clothes, furniture and even people. The exhibit draws inspiration from Agnes Pelton, Özlem Thompson and Hilma af Klint. Omer said they hope that, through viewing and experiencing their artwork, people will gain better understandings of their own selves. The opening reception is on Oct. 15 from 7 - 9 p.m. with the exhibit open through Oct. 24.
Before Hispanic Heritage Month officially ends, I would like to take a moment to write about the labels those of us of Latin American heritage use to describe ourselves. At Rice, club names, course titles and survey questions often defer to pan-ethnic labels even though most people tend to use their national origin group as a primary identifier. These pan-ethnic labels are problematic. Although they in some ways unify Latin American communities, they often leave out others, like Afro-Latinos and indigenous Latinos. My goal here is not to dissuade people from using pan-ethnic labels; as history has shown, they can be useful, to some degree. However, my intention is for all of us, Latinos and non-Latinos alike, to use them wisely — with the understanding that the Latino community cannot be condensed into one culturally, ethnically or even linguistically homogeneous group. With that in mind, I hope that we as a Rice community continue to discuss and re-evaluate our language even after Hispanic Heritage Month ends.