Kaitlin Hunnicutt

A councilman’s perspective on voting

October 28, 2022

Students at Missouri Southern expressed their confusion about voting. Students wanted to know what to expect when voting and what would be on the ballot for midterm elections. 

Josh DeTar was elected as a Joplin city councilman on April 5, 2022. Because of his position, DeTar relies on voting and the election process to be voted into office. 

“You have to ask people to vote for you,” DeTar said when speaking about running for councilman. “You vote for people you feel are going to represent you… and your ideas and your thoughts the best.”

Statistics show a common voting age gap across most countries. For the 2016 Presidential election, less than half of young Americans ages 18-29 voted. According to the New York Times, habit formation, opportunity cost and alternative participation explained the voting gap.

Habit formation refers to either being in the habit of voting regularly versus not being in that habit. Since young voters may not have much experience voting, it can make them hesitant to start. Opportunity cost in this instance, refers to young adults not having the job flexibility or financial cushion to take off so they can vote. Lastly, alternative participation refers to the younger generation’s participation in other forms of political action, such as protests and social media movements.

Not voting is giving up your chance to have your voice heard

— Josh DeTar, Joplin city councilman

According to DeTar, voting for local government affects daily life more than a federal election. In fact, local elections can create solutions for concerns such as road conditions, drinking water, parks, and city economics which then can affect what businesses, restaurants and stores come to the Joplin area. 

In addition, local elections determine positions such as mayor, council members, school board members, county commissioners, etc (depending on county or city). Those positions also manage citizens and students to create a functioning society. 

DeTar voted for the first time when he was 18 years old. He experienced voter anxiety back then as a young adult and even now.

“It’s intimidating even as an adult because the language that’s on the ballots is hard to understand,” DeTar said. 

To conquer voter anxiety, DeTar advises  researching candidates and issues. This can be done by watching city council meetings, reviewing the local paper or online sources. Sample ballots are also available by going online and searching your county’s sample ballot. Most counties will have a website where you can find a link to view the candidates and issues. 

The upcoming election is a midterm election, which occurs in the middle of a presidential term election in November. Votes will be cast for state congressmen, state representatives in the Missouri House, Missouri State senators, Missouri US senators and representatives. Also this year a big headline has been if voters will also decide to legalize recreational marijuana. 

Aside from big, controversial topics, getting voters motivated can be a challenge.

“The city’s responsibility is [that] we can’t advocate,” DeTar said.

Joplin can only encourage voting in general but cannot promote or lean toward a particular candidate or a particular side. Some candidates will use social media as well to reach their supporters and motivate them to vote. 

Voting can change the scope of cities, states and the entire United States. It all starts with the small, local elections and builds upwards to presidential elections.

“Not voting is giving up your chance to have your voice heard,” DeTar said. “You walk out feeling empowered.”

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