Elections aren't only when we choose presidents, congresspeople, or even state legislators. Numerous local offices are up for election too. Often these people can have at least as much of an impact on civil liberties as the other offices.
With increased attention on the police, people are looking to the federal and state governments to enact reforms. Most police, however, are subject to local control. Their budgets, their hiring and firing, and their policies are set up by mayors and city councils. If you want more investment in human services, and less in police militarization, your local officials are the people who make those priorities.
Prosecutors, who are directly elected in West Virginia, can have a huge impact on how the criminal legal system operates. Prosecutors can choose not to pursue charges for low-level drug crimes. They have a strong influence over bail and pretrial detention. They can pursue lengthy sentences, or focus on community-based, rehabilitative services.
Magistrates also play a role in a wide array of civil liberties issues. Magistrates may issue warrants for searches and arrests. They set bail. They may also be involved in mental hygiene decisions – allowing people to be held against their will even when they have not been accused of a crime.
In West Virginia, county clerks are the primary elections officials. They control the voter rolls, and are responsible for maintaining accurate lists of voters. They also hire and train poll workers. They set polling locations. Their opinions on matters relating to voting rights are often given a lot of weight by the state legislature. Overall, their actions can significantly affect voting rights.
A commitment to civil liberties starts at the local level. Unfortunately, these roles are often overlooked. These races are often decided by a few dozen votes. Your vote matters in all races, but in these local races, it can be the difference that gets a civil-liberties friendly candidate elected.