EDITORIAL: Voting equates to community vibrancy and engagement

Voting communities are the cornerstone of vibrant societies. They foster increased engagement, active volunteerism, and greater accountability. By examining various aspects, such as voter turnout, civic participation, and social cohesion, it becomes evident that communities with active voting populations are more vibrant and resilient.

High voter turnout is indicative of a healthy citizenry and vibrant community engagement. According to data from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, countries with higher voter turnout tend to have stronger social cohesion and work better with their local institutions. For instance, in the 2020 United States presidential election, voter turnout reached a 50-year high, with approximately 66.7% of eligible voters casting their ballots. This surge in participation reflects a heightened sense of civic duty and community involvement.

Voting serves as a gateway to broader civic engagement. Studies have shown that individuals who vote are more likely to participate in other forms of community activism, such as volunteering with local clubs and organizations, attending public meetings, and joining other advocacy groups. Research conducted by the Pew Research Center found that voters are more than twice as likely as non-voters to engage in community organizations and activities. This increased civic participation strengthens social networks, fosters collaboration, and promotes collective action to address local challenges.

Voting empowers marginalized communities and ensures that diverse voices are heard in decision-making processes. When communities actively participate in elections, they can elect representatives who reflect their values, priorities, and lived experiences. For example, a study published in the American Political Science Review found that higher voter turnout among various segments of the population leads to greater representation in elected offices. Inclusive representation enhances the legitimacy of democratic institutions and promotes policies that address the needs of all community members.

A robust voting community holds elected officials accountable for their actions and policies. When politicians know they are accountable to an engaged electorate, they are more likely to respond to constituents' concerns, prioritize public interests, and uphold democratic norms. Research conducted by scholars at Harvard University and the University of Stockholm found a positive correlation between voter turnout and government responsiveness. In communities with higher voter turnout, elected officials are more responsive to public opinion and less prone to corruption or abuse of power.

Voting fosters a sense of belonging and solidarity within communities, contributing to greater social cohesion and trust among residents. A study published in the Journal of Politics found that individuals who vote regularly are more likely to trust their neighbors and work with their local institutions and fellow citizens. This trust forms the foundation of strong social bonds, facilitates cooperation, and enables communities to address shared challenges collectively. Additionally, voting serves as a symbolic expression of citizenship and civic pride, reinforcing community identity and solidarity.

Vibrant voting communities are also associated with higher levels of economic development and prosperity. Research conducted by economists at the University of Gothenburg found that regions with higher voter turnout experience faster economic growth and lower income inequality. Active participation in the governmental processes, both local and regionally, fosters a conducive environment for entrepreneurship, innovation and investment. Additionally, accountable governance and inclusive policies promote economic opportunity and social mobility, benefiting individuals and businesses alike.

Make no mistake, long story short, high-voting communities are undeniably more vibrant and resilient, as evidenced by higher levels of voter turnout, civic participation, representation, accountability, social cohesion, and economic development. By actively engaging in voting processes, communities empower themselves to shape their collective future, address inequalities, and build inclusive societies. As we strive to strengthen the values and institutions, fostering vibrant voting communities must remain a priority for policymakers, civil society organizations, and citizens alike. By promoting participation, inclusivity, and accountability, we can ensure that our communities thrive and flourish for generations to come.

John Newby is a nationally recognized columnist, speaker and publisher. He consults with chambers, communities, businesses and media. His "Building Main Street, not Wall Street" column appears in 60-plus newspapers and media outlets. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists chambers, communities, media and businesses in creating synergies that build vibrant communities. He can be contacted at [email protected]. Opinions expressed are those of the author.