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. Before I turned 18, I always thought my vote really wouldn’t matter, especially since I didn’t know much or understood politics. However, this recent election really opened up my eyes. Being in college with elections, is big difference than high school. So many people I know were promoting who we should vote for, whereas in high school no one really cared. I think it’s so important to vote and realize that it does count. A majority of the votes come from the youth and our generation. Also, this election was heavily focused on Education and being a future educator, it was important to give my say for my career. Any of the elections are very important to give your say in our how our state and country should be represented.

  2. This article is very interesting and SO important. I voted last Tuesday because it is my right and responsibility as an American citizen to stand up for what I believe in. I wanted to make sure my voice was heard because my vote does matter. I’ve found that many people do not vote in their local elections and also during off-year elections because they feel as though it is not as important, but those are the elections that are directly impacting their city and county! Sometimes people don’t vote at all because they don’t know enough about the candidates and what they stand for. I believe that more needs to be done to educate people on the importance of voting and how to become educated on political issues. When I am a teacher, I plan to have mock elections in my classroom every November with two different candidates who are fighting for issues that are relatable to the students. For example; longer recess, no homework, later start times, etc. Then, the students will cast their vote on a ballot and there will be a winner. I think that this will be a great way to illustrate to students how important it is for them to voice their opinions because each and every vote does count!

  3. I think that voting in local elections is even more important than voting in national elections. Sure, national elections can more popular and have more media coverage, but the local elections are the ones that’ll affect you more. It is glaringly obvious how much your vote matters after this past election in Kentucky, with only a 0.5% lead by the winner, only a couple thousand votes.

  4. From a young age i have always been taught to vote an that my vote does count. I was able to vote when i was 17 in the midterm elections because in the state of Kentucky if you are within a few months of turning 18 before an election you are able to vote.Voting has its own importance to each individual and for me voting is for one a way of utilizing my first amendment right and my nineteenth amendment right and being able to have some kind of say of in who i want to be in office and who i think would make the best decisions for my town, my state, etc. In my opinion i think that everyone should vote because these are the people who basically run how we live because most business and jobs tie back into the government. So get out and VOTE!!

  5. I understand that off-year elections play a vital part in our local government. Unfortunately, I believe these candidates are less publicized then candidates for national matters. I feel we are not educated on off-year election candidates and decide to opt out of voting for that year instead of giving our vote to someone we don’t know. I can personally attest to this. If I am not familiar with candidates, I normally will not vote. As a legal U.S citizen, I have only voted during an off-year election twice. In both cases I had prior knowledge regarding the people running and felt comfortable in voting for them. I have also voted for those just in my political party I am registered for. For both reasons I need to investigate more about the people running for office. Just because an individual is the same political party as me, does not mean they would be fit for office.

  6. As a political science major, voting has become super important to me. This is the second year in a row where I’ve requested off work to drive to Lexington and cast my vote in person. I agree with you, that most people only turnout to vote during Presidential elections. This is ironic because the elections whose results have the most opportunity to directly impact us are the state and local elections. State and local officials have more opportunity to listen and communicate their constituents’ needs to the legislature and translate these needs into policy.
    I also agree with the sentiment that a lot of people don’t believe their vote ‘counts’, so they opt to just not participate. This isn’t beneficial because, as you said, local elections can be decided by just a few votes.

  7. Voting at a local level is very important. Like the article stated, much of those diction will directly affect our day to day lives, because we are voting for people in power for our local community. I personally push people to vote more for these elections than I do for the presidential elections. We experienced last year first hand the power the governor had when he took away a lot of school funding that directly impacting our teachers and schools. In this election we have to voice to change who is in power and who can make laws that affect us and our future. This year the election came down to the wire with Democrats winning by only a few thousand votes, it was almost a tie. But it was the people who cared enough to come out and vote that threw the balance off enough to win.

  8. I remember when I turned 18 that I fully believed voting did not matter because my voice and my opinions would not be heard. This is because I identify as a democrat in a very republican state. However, this year I went out to vote as it it my civic duty, and I want to honor the women before who fought so hard to be able to vote. This past election proved that voting matters as we put Andy Beshear, a democrat, in to office, instead of Matt Bevin, a republican, in a very close race. This election emphasized the importance of voting. I know for me personally, I will continue to exercise my right to vote, even as a minority in the state I live in, because every vote truly does matter. While voting is very important, it is more important to be an informed voter. Going in blindly and voting for people you do not know what they stand for can cause more harm than good.

  9. With a recent election, the topic of voting has been very relevant lately. The right to vote is such a privilege that we often overlook. Aside from any other motive, the intensity required in the freedom and opportunity to vote should be a motivation alone. To think that this was a right that only certain individuals used to be entitled to is unfathomable. I am so appreciative that I live in a country where my voice is heard and I don’t have to face oppression in expressing my right to vote. I have now voted twice since I’ve turned 18 and it is pretty empowering. Opinions are simply meaningless and ineffective if individuals don’t act upon them. For example, I have many friends of my own who certainly had an input on who they wanted to win the election, and yet they were too lazy to vote. That is simply mind-blowing to me. I think with the results of the recent election and how close the votes were, it was very telling of the importance of ones vote. Especially with the fact that the state of Kentucky is a dominantly and historically conservative state. This is so important, and I hope everyone comes to find that.

  10. I am 20 and I still have not participated in voting in any election until now. I turned 18 after the presidential election, so I couldn’t vote then, and I haven’t voted in an off year election until this year. I sadly don’t keep up with politics. I have never really paid attention to what the running candidates stand for or what their campaign is about. I do really want to start voting now though. I do know what I stand for and how I feel. I followed this past election and was able to vote. I look forward to voting in the next election.

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