What is the definition of local elections?


Local elections are elections for offices within the county or municipal government. Typical elected offices selected by voters include mayor, city councilman, county commissioner, sheriff and city or district attorney. Local elections are important because local policy has the most direct influence on the day-to-day life of the electorate.

Local elections are a distinct affair from federal and state elections. The officials chosen during local elections are the closest, most immediate level of government to the people. Mayors, city council, city attorney and sheriff are all subject to local elections.

Locally elected officers shape the policy that most significantly affects the lives of citizens. While local governments do not decide questions of national security, war, foreign relations or interstate policy, they deal with many of the issues people experience on a daily basis. These issues include keeping the peace by running an effective police force, maintaining jails, building and repairing roads, and recording marriages and deaths.

Local governments set their own election procedures. Many local elections are nonpartisan. That is, the political affiliations of candidates do not appear on the ballot. A number of local governments utilize the instant-runoff voting method for mayor and other executives. Under this system, voters select candidates in preferential order instead of casting a vote for a single candidate. Some states even have distinct voter eligibility laws. In Takoma Park, Md., for instance, residents are allowed to vote at age 16 instead of the typical 18.

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