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. Growing up, I knew a lot about the Presidential election. My parents discussed the importance and their opinions a lot. They, however, didn’t discuss off-year elections as much. As I got older, especially in government class in High School, I learned about local elections and their importance. I don’t think these elections are stressed as much as they should be. Especially because these elections can come down to one vote. It’s very important to research these local candidate to make sure you are making the best decision for your community. 

  2. I always try to vote in midterm elections even when I am living an hour and half way from home because I feel like they are still important even though they aren’t voting for a president. This one feels especially important because living from Kentucky we will be voting for our govenor today and as a future teacher who’s pension is at risk I want to make sure my voice will be heard. Even though people don’t vote as much on midterms they should if they can because women and people of color have worked so hard in the past to get us this right. Midterm elections can affect many day to day things such as zoning and school funding which are very important and will affect us directly.

  3. I think a lot of people take advantage when it comes to voting, I sometimes think that I take advantage of it because I have the outlook of my vote won’t make a difference and I feel like I’m not informed on a lot of the things that are being voted on in the elections so I don’t feel like I should vote at times. I remember in high school when everyone in my grade turned 18, we were all required to sign up to vote in the election, it counted as a grade. I want to make sure that when it comes to voting in polls in the future that I educate myself more on the people and issues that are being voted on in the polls though. I want to make sure that I am more informed on what I am voting for and I fully understand them. This article really made me think about how my vote does make a difference.

  4. I believe that every election we should vote. I think this because people have gone out to war and have fought for our right to vote. Even as a woman, I plan to get educated and go out and vote because that is my right to do so. People fought in the past to have the right to vote as a woman. I think it is also important because the off season election helps the community and those votes affect our schools, parks, streets, and everything around us. As a future teacher, I take those rights completely seriously because those votes will affect the schools that I will hopefully be in. I think everyone needs to be educated and vote for the off season because those affect us directly and the people in our community.

  5. I found this article very insightful. I think a lot of students that are just coming to the age that they’re able to vote, they don’t think it matters. Not only do they think it doesn’t matter, they don’t pay enough attention to what’s going on in politics. I think that modern day politics should be talked about more often in high schools so that when those students are able to vote, they know exactly who they wanted to vote for. While this can be tricky for teachers, they should be instructed on how to inform students without imposing their opinion on them. This should be quite simple if someone explains to them a good way to do it.

  6. This article is very important because people tend to forget how much their vote impacts things within their state, community, and neighborhood. Voting in “off-year” elections is often overlooked, however, it is the only election that affects citizens on a much larger scale than other elections. “Off-year” elections affects citizens day to day lives voting on issues like property taxes, marajuana legalization, and passing school levees. So, don’t forget to vote!!

  7. This article was very interesting to me. I honestly don’t know much about voting. In my own household the presidential election is a big deal but the off-year elections aren’t talked about as much. I often have caught myself in the thought process that my vote doesn’t count but this article is a good reassurance but it does count and can make an even bigger impact in the local elections. One big take away from voting as a citizen and this article is being an educated citizen nd doing your research before voting. Don’t be a blind voter.

  8. Voting on “off-year” elections is often overlooked and not stressed nearly as hard as presidential or midterm elections. However, as you mentioned, they impact our lives on a much larger scale and our votes go much farther in these elections. Local police and officials will be far more interactive and helpful to you. Citizens either forget to vote in these elections of choose not to and that is unfortunate. Not passing your school levy has very big implications and issues like property tax, marijuana, and more will have a much larger immediate impact on citizens. Therefore, we need to educate ourselves and make sure we participate in the elections to create change on local levels and then see it nationally. Creating good citizens is the goal of social studies and that certainly means voting in “off-year” elections.

    • I really appreciate this article! I had an amazing government teacher in high school who always put importance on our right to vote. I am constantly telling my family and friends to go vote, no matter what election it is! This year I just took my parents with me to make sure that they went and voted. I also think it’s important to note that you can’t complain if you don’t go out and vote for what you believe in. Lastly, it’s important to make sure you’re an educated voter and that you are aware of who and what you are voting for.

  9. I found this article to be a very interesting read given that I will be voting tomorrow for my townships ‘off-year’ election. I found that two of the three issues/topics on the ballot only have one candidate running so I believe this could be one of the issues contributing to people not voting. I still plan to go vote as I believe it is important to vote even if just on the one issue with multiple candidates (school board members). I believe it is very important to vote in all elections but as mentioned in the article it is true that each individual vote matters even more in these ‘off-year’ elections. I think this is something that should be a more talked about subject, as when I was younger I didn’t even learn about these elections/when they happened. I only ever remember teachers and adults talking about the presidential elections and it is important that we are all well-informed and vote based on this information (regardless of opinions or political parties, it is crucial that everyone votes).

  10. I think this is a very important thing to bring up in discussions. My sister turned 18 last month, and said “I can vote soon”. That is scary. My mother asked her “What are the issues that you’d be voting for?”, and my sister just looked at her dumbfounded. I think this piece should be read by every young person that will be voting. They need to understand the election, and what they’re voting for, before they vote. This was a great article that explained very important things to understand about the voting system on an off year.

    • I am guilty when it comes to thinking, “My vote will barley count for anything.” But I still went out and voted today because it is my right that MANY women fought for. This article needs to be read by everyone. It serves as a great reminder why the off-year elections are just as important as the presidential elections. Local elections can affect so many aspects of our daily lives such as property taxes, school funding, educational curriculum, city parks and recreation, local businesses, religious centers, marijuana laws, and more. Which is why it is just as important to educate yourself on the candidates and vote for the person whose ideas you support. Vote for change!

Leave a Reply to Carlee McCarthy Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.