Does My Vote Count? The Importance of Voting in Off-Year Elections

Informing Your Conscience in “Off-Year” Elections

Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

What is an off-year election? An off-year election is a general election that is held when neither a presidential election nor a midterm election takes place. Sometimes the term is also used to refer to midterm election years. When people in the United States think of voting they often think of participating in the national presidential election. However, the city, county and state elections, as well as congressional races can be just as important as presidential elections. The local races in small townships, villages or cities are often determined by just a few votes. So yes, your vote does count. It is true that your vote may have less of an impact in the general presidential election; but it can have a very large and more direct affect in the local or county elections.

Your Vote Greatly Influences Local Elections
There are many other elected positions on various levels that affect the everyday lives of the American people, but all too often many Americans sit on the sidelines during midterm or off-year elections. Important contests such as state governor and mayoral races to city council and school board have a major impact on the day to day lives of average citizen. Local elections can affect school funding, property taxes, zoning, law enforcement, educational curriculum, city parks and recreation, local businesses, waste collection, sports arenas, public health, charity and benevolence, religious centers, abortion debates, adult business zoning, marijuana laws, and many more aspects of our daily lives. Thus, it is very important that every American citizen educate themselves on the candidates and vote intelligently. This is a major component of a democratic society, an essential component of a successful democracy.

Previous Democracy and Me Articles on Elections
As we have said, with the upcoming election season it is important that people understand the important role informed citizens play  when exercising their right to vote. In light of it being election season I would like to draw the reader’s attention to previous articles we have done on the Democracy and Me site around the topic of elections and voting.
Two such articles are entitled Congressional, State, and  Local Elections Voting in a Democracy- Lessons on Voter Suppression and What are the Midterm Elections All About? A resource that also offers good information about local elected offices is Who Runs the Show? Understanding Your Local Government.

Research Your Options and Vote
It is important that people get out to vote and not simply wait for the presidential election. Here is a good resource to find important information about voting and upcoming elections in your hometown. Also, below I have included some resources on elections and voting that can help voters better understand the issues and also receive some general information about the democratic process. I will also provide resources for teachers to use to inform students about voting in their classrooms.

Off Year Election Resources
So, You Want To Run For Local Office
Off-Year Elections
United States Midterm Election
Understanding Congressional, State, and Local Elections
Off-Year Election Preview: Is It All About Partisanship?
What is an Off-Year Election?

Voting Lesson Plans
Off-year Election Lessons
Elections and Civics Lesson Plan
Citizen Advocacy Center
Ten Ways to Teach About Election Day
Mini-lesson: Midterm Elections (HS)
Do the midterm elections matter? – Worksheet
Seven Ways to Teach the Midterms With The New York Times


  1. Recently, I heard my cousins talking about how they don’t even know who’s running for our city’s counseling elections. It’s great that you described the importance of voting for any election and how it impacts our daily life, so I’ll send this article to my cousins right now. Thanks for the information on how local elections dictate our city’s school funding and law enforcement.

  2. Going off the article I read before this the idea to vote is brought up again. It is important to vote for big elections. However it is also important to vote on off years and a lot of people don’t realize that. 

  3. I like that you said every American should educate themselves about the political candidates and make wise decisions when voting because their choice would influence many lives. That’s precisely what I’ve been trying to tell my relatives about this election. They don’t care much about the local positions, so I’ll try to educate them at our next family gathering. Thank you!

  4. This article was interesting to read because I have always been a big advocate of voting. Many young people do not vote because they believe their vote doesn’t matter. This article is a good example of why everyone should vote and how your vote does matter. The outcome of smaller elections and local elections are important to everyone that lives in that community which is why it is so important for everyone to vote in off-year elections. I like how Dr. Childs states that a voter needs to educate themselves before voting. I agree that people need to do their own research and make up their own mind on what the issues are. Everyone gets a vote and your vote is your voice; use it.

  5. I am excited that this will be my first presidential election I’m able to vote. I’ve voted in all of the off-year elections since I’ve been old enough. I think the more local decisions are more important, since they have a more direct impact on what happens to me and my community. It stresses me out that so many Americans don’t go out and vote except for on presidential election years. I know there are often barriers for people in making it to their polling stations, but when mail-in ballots are also available, I wish more people would plan around election days and prioritize participating in local elections as highly as presidential elections. Thinking about it makes me wish the United States had some sort of compulsory voting laws, like those in Australia. I think it’s really strange that, as a democracy, not all of our citizens have voting rights (felons) and those that do have voting rights so often fail to use them. I don’t feel comfortable that the whole population’s opinions aren’t represented.

  6. This is a very important article because people do not realize how important their votes are. Just because it is not a presidential vote, does not mean that your vote will not matter. Voting matters because it could determine a lot of things that effect you and your community. Like the article points out, voting could determine educational curriculum. As a parent, you want to have a say in what your child is taught. If you do not express your thoughts in the voting poll, then you should not complain about what your child is being taught in school because you didn’t vote against it. This can happen in a lot of aspects of voting and not just educational curriculum.

  7. I found myself voting in my first off-year election this year and had no idea what to expect or what my vote did. I thought this was just some boring old election and that it had no impact because it was not a presidential election. After reading your article, I found out how much of an impact these elections have. I will make sure to take this more seriously next time.

  8. I can remember hearing some of my friends once we reached voting age get so excited to vote, but were only thinking about the big national elections like presidency elections. For me, my grandmother was heavily involved in local politics so I knew how direct the effects of decisions made on that level are, so I knew it was important for me to vote in off-year elections. However, I think more students need opportunities to get involved in their community so that they can see how important local politics are, and help them realize how their voice being heard in smaller, local elections may have a bigger impact on them than a national election would. I also think about the recent gubernatorial election that placed Andy Beshear in office. The voter turnout was higher than normal (42%), but that number could still use improvement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.