Last week, Emily Larson was elected Mayor of Duluth.
Larson won on a platform of cutting taxes and investing in small business.
Actually, I have no idea if that was her platform. I just made that up and judging by the turnout of UMD in the election most of you would’ve just accepted that as fact.
In fact, UMD voter turnout was so dismal that even the Duluth News Tribune called us out: “The lowest voter turnout in the city on Tuesday was 15.67 percent in Precinct 10, which includes the University of Minnesota Duluth campus.”
It seems a bit spiteful to single the campus out, so out of spite I’m going to say something that may be unpopular.
I didn’t vote in last week’s election. I didn’t vote and that is completely fine.
Now that half the people reading this are busy furiously hammering out response letters about my audacity in disregarding the sanctity of American democracy, let me explain. My inaction wasn’t an affront to democracy. My inaction was an embracement of it.
Let’s put aside the flag waving, moral obligation slogans for a moment and look at this realistically. I’m not from Duluth. I have little intention of staying in Duluth when I graduate. Now, who else falls into that category? The vast majority of UMD students.
Last November I went to the polls and voted for the midterm elections. Next November I’ll do the same for president. Local elections, however, are just that: local. We, as UMD students, are not locals.
Duluth’s future is Duluth’s. There are, according to the same DNT article, 50,192 registered voters in Duluth. There are close to 9,000 potential voters at UMD. That’s 9,000 potential voters who are, as a majority, essentially long-term tourists.
Now as funny as I think it is that 9,000 carpetbaggers could throw a local election and then leave after a few years, it undermines what the democratic process should be.
Students shouldn’t worry about voting in Duluth’s elections. If you want to chastise them for apathy, look at the turnout for their hometown elections. I wouldn’t doubt that turnout was equally low, but that’s where students should be voting. Students should vote for where their family is, where their history is. They should vote for a place they have a real stake in until they find a place to finally settle down on their own.
I spent five years stationed in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Never once did I consider it my real home. I look at Duluth the same way. It is a brief waypoint on my journey through life. I’m here for a time to accomplish a task and then I’ll move on. Duluth’s future isn’t mine to choose.
Local elections belong to those who are invested in this community and we, as a whole, are not. We’re all going to leave soon enough, sliding through that revolving door of students that keeps tossing out graduates into the world at large.
Duluth shouldn’t be upset that UMD students don’t care about local elections. Duluth should be relieved that, for once, millennial carelessness has actually benefitted them.