With our current presidential election seeming especially cynical, it’s fair to say a large portion of voters are not excited about either major candidate. The billions of dollars and corporate interests saturating campaigns every election cycle are overwhelming, leaving many American voters across the political spectrum feeling discouraged and powerless. One important way we as students can prevent the overwhelming influence of moneyed interests and so-called super PACs on election outcomes is by shifting our attention to local elections and propositions further down the ballot.

Take the race for 3rd Third District Supervisor between Bruce Porter and Joan Hartmann in Santa Barbara County, for example. Porter’s campaign has been supported by over $60,000 from the oil and gas industries. These large donations from fossil fuel corporations in a relatively smaller local election should raise a red flag, especially given the county’s history with environmentally devastating oil spills. With four different energy companies looking to activate over a 1,000 new wells, currently awaiting approval in Santa Barbara County, a vote for Bruce Porter would almost certainly mean a vote for more oil drilling and fracking, environmental and social injustice, as well as supporting yet another politician who is for sale to the highest bidder.

On the contrary, candidate Joan Hartmann has a long history of fighting the oil and gas industries. Hartmann’s biggest environmental victory was “helping found the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project, a novel public-private partnership among government agencies, business and environmental interests that has secured over $628 million to restore rivers and wetlands from Gaviota to San Diego. These efforts increase water supplies, restore habitats, and create jobs,”

This type of leadership, innovation and initiative in which protecting our environment can go hand-in-hand with protecting people and their jobs, is exactly what our community deserves from those who represent us. Moreover, this is the kind of leadership that, with public pressure, can protect our elections from the influence of big money and the fossil fuel industry. With an incredible array of endorsements from firefighters and nurses to the Sierra Club, it’s obvious which candidate will fight to protect our coasts, climate and futures (hint: it’s not Bruce).

Because of its dense population, Isla Vista represents roughly one-third of the total votes for the Third District Supervisor election. This figure confirms how much of an impact young people potentially possess. It’s essential for students residing in Isla Vista to get to the polls on Nov. 8 to have their voices heard. Though one may feel discouraged regarding today’s political atmosphere, it’s imperative to understand that change starts at the bottom. Educating one’s self on down-ballot candidates is vital to real progress. Leaving local elections to a game of eeny-meeny-miny-mo is not only unacceptable, but leaves the door wide open to people who will corrupt our democracy and pollute our communities.

Written by Casey Mix and Grady Zant