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Where are the votes?

With an average voting rate of 47.1 percent and August Primaries nearing, The Rapidian seeks out non-voters to ask, "why don't you vote?"
I Voted sticker is rephrased.

I Voted sticker is rephrased. /Tiffany Szakal

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Grand Rapids has over 130,000 registered voters, but the actual act of voting rarely peaks over 80,000 participants within the city limits. Least likely among those participants at the polls are young people and people of color.

When asked, the reasons for not voting often fell into three categories: lack of trust in the government, belief that a single vote doesn't matter and lack of information on what was being proposed.

According to Gallup polling, America's confidence in government has generally been on the decline for the last two decades. Scandals, the Great Recession and unpopular foreign policy had led to the near historic low approval ratings in 2014 of 22 percent.

"What difference does my vote make when they turn around and do it anyway," Amber Shepherd says. Shepherd is a voter who has seen her vote be ignored with examples such as last year's ballot measure of gasoline tax being voted down only to be reintroduced and passed in the State Legislature this month.

In a narrow victory on the November 4 ballot, Grand Rapids instituted term limits for the Mayor. It was a decision made by a margin of just 1,104 votes- clearly a narrow win. With lower voter turn out than national elections, in local elections every vote matters and has a direct impact on the happenings of that city. That November 4 vote, for example, had a mere 36.56 percent voter turnout.

One interviewee, Becca Danz, admittedly has not had a television in eight years. She also doesn't received a newspaper so local election details through those mediums are lost on her. Without thorough information on the candidates and ballot measures, she chooses not to vote in some elections.

"I'm a very firm believer in educating yourself before you vote. I'm not going to vote for one issue or representatives if I don't know the candidates. I'll be doing a disservice to my community," she says. Danz is one of many that feel this way.

In this continued age of instant information and online connections, Candidates and proposal proponents need to find new and creative ways of reaching out to people of color and young voters. Street signs, television blasts and print media are doing little to affect this group of votes and communicate their stance. They must meet the voter where they are: online, in thier neighborhoods and on their social media platforms because one vote does matter, especially in the local elections.

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