By Spencer Culver | Aug. 14, 2020
Why do we vote? For me, voting represents an opportunity to influence the community in which I live. Put another way—a vote is an affirmation of a citizen’s aspirations for themselves and folks who live near them, regardless of party. It’s also a chance to say “I’d like this person to lead and represent my community.” Some wish schools received more state funding, while others wish for reduced property taxes. All Kansans wish to see a healthier state (I hope).
In Kansas, there is room for improvement when it comes to ensuring that our elected officials are accurately representing their districts. As constituents, we can do more to let our elected officials know how we feel.
First, voter turnout in Kansas is low. Only 45 percent of registered Kansans cast a ballot in 2014. That Kansas’ voter turnout is nearly 10 percent better than the national average speaks to the poor quality of national electoral participation. We can do better. Turnout for 18- to 29-year-olds went up nearly 12 points between 2014 and 2018; still only one in four young people votes. Turnout among Black and Latino voters in Kansas is far lower than White voters.
Second, the number of constituents who contact their legislators is remarkably low. Only 14.4 percent of Kansas adults have contacted or visited an elected official. Somehow that figure ranks Kansas as the 19th best state in public official contact. Kansans with lower household incomes, people without a high school education, and Black and Latino people are exceedingly less likely to contact their legislators.
This means we have work to do to make sure our state legislators are accurately reflecting the communities they represent. It also means that our legislators may not be getting a full understanding of the needs of their constituents. That needs to change.
How? We can vote. Beyond that, we can get our family, neighbors, friends, etc. to go and vote. The Alliance is a part of The Voter Network’s Voter to Voter project. That project asks that we find some of our friends who are low-propensity voters and get them to vote. We’d like you to join our team so we can expand the number of people in the state who are turning out to vote. You can do that here.
Spencer Culver is the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas’ advocacy specialist. Contact Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org.