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. Voting is a right that many have fought hard for to get to where we are today. Especially as a woman, I feel it be of upmost importance for me to exercise my right to vote because I have the ability to do so. No matter what type of election it may be, your vote counts because you are getting out there and making a difference. My biggest pet-peeve regarding elections is when people complain about the outcome, yet they DIDN’T VOTE. I am proud to say that I am an active voter, and I believe that my vote counts to help make a difference.

  2. In the past I have definitely been guilty of thinking that my vote didn’t count. However, this year above anything else has really shown me just how much my vote really does count. The first way that I was shown this was when I was watching the results for the governor race. The decision was so close. There was less than a half of a percent difference between the person who won and the person who lost. That is only about 4000 votes different. That is less than a third of the population of my college. I was also shown this by the vote that took place in Newtonsville, Ohio. While I was no a part of this vote, it still made a huge impact on me. This year they voted on whether or not their town would continue to exist. With a grand total of 7 people voting, their town was disbanded. 7 people made the decision for an entire town because just no one voted. It really just goes to shown how important your vote can be.

  3. I love the idea that are presented in this article. It is something that should be brought up in discussions with students because it is so important to vote in all elections. I have seen first hand that most people think that if they do not know all of the candidates or information about the election there is not point or the famous one “my vote doesn’t count”. All votes count in an election. This year Kentucky has had one of the closest elections we have seen in years and it all counted on a handful of votes that ultimately determined who won.

  4. I myself am guilty of thinking my vote will not count, or overlooking the importance of one vote. Previous women and important figures have fought for my right to have a say and a vote and I am thankful for the fight to give me the rights and freedom I have. I also think it is important to have more of a discussion in classrooms about the importance of voting and elections. Before I was able to vote I really had no idea about the importance or role that elections and voting had. I also did not know enough about the different parties and roles that I feel my vote maybe would not be going in the direction in which I really wanted it to. Since turning 18 I have learned more and feel more secure in what I can do to help my state or country. Recently I have also learned how important it is to vote in the off year. Just because the president is not being voted for does not mean the election or poll is not important. In my classroom I want to inform my students that all participation is important regardless of how big or small of difference they think their input or response will make.

  5. As a citizen of the United States, voting is one of the most important rights we have. Many people died and fought for this right for all citizens, regardless of gender, color, or nationality. We should exercise this right properly and as often as we feel necessary, and I’m glad that this article exists because I believe too many people neglect the “off-year” elections when they are just as important as the others. I remember a story recently where a township in Ohio was dissolved because their elected leaders were skimming money off the top and raised taxes without telling the citizens among other things. If more people in the community had attended city council meetings or taken a more active role in local politics, this outcome may not have been reached. Researching these politicians to see where they stand on issues and if there is any pertinent information you need to know before voting for them is a good practice. Also, you don’t have to vote on every issue on the ballot too! Vote for the ones you know about and have researched.In summary, exercise your right to vote but make sure you do it responsibly and research beforehand.

  6. This article is extremely important and should be read by more people. So many individuals don’t understand how important it is to vote and be a part of elections such as these. People need to be educated on the smaller elections and what they are voting for. The other issue is ill-informed voters. I feel as if many people vote without knowing the foundations of each candidate and what they’re actually voting for. As a young individual, I must take the initiative to learn as much as I can and inform myself on policies. And as a woman, I must vote due to the fact that it is my right and people stood up and fought for this right for the better of the country.

  7. I think that this article did a great job at explaining why it is important to vote in all elections, even if it is an off year election. The article explained what other things, besides president, that we can vote for. It also explains what can be effected if people do not get out and vote, such us school funding and property taxes being changed. The items on the ballots on the local election are all things that will really impact a person so they are things they should research about and vote.
    It has been five years since I was first old enough to vote in the election. This is my first time, primary or general, that I have not voted on election day. I am from Indiana and every other year I have had someone or something that I wanted to vote for, and it just wasn’t the case for this election. I cared more about Kentucky’s election than I did my own. My point is, I have always felt like my vote matters because it does. I think the results of the Kentucky governor race shows that. Andy Beshear defeated Matt Bevin by only 5,000 votes. The difference between the two in many counties was extremely small. If 5,000 people thought their vote didn’t matter, the outcome of the election could’ve been completely different.

  8. I think that it is incredibly important that people go out and exercise their right to vote. Every vote matters whether it is for a presidential, state, or local election. With the recent Kentucky election I think that this stands true more now than ever. Beshear won the election by ~5,000 votes, it was an extremely close election and it shows that every vote matters, no matter how small it may seem.

  9. Voting is something that a lot of people take for granted and do not use exercise their right to vote. Even if it is not a presidential election, your vote still matters and is just as important. There are a lot of issue that come up that citizens need to vote for, for example issues that have to do with funding schools or voting for the local politicians that can help to better the community. Especially since in this course our end goal is to be teachers, we need to get out there and vote to help our future students. It is our right to vote, so don’t waste it!

  10. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of not voting in past off-year elections, because I wasn’t educated on why it’s important to! But this past election was different. I realized how important it was for my voice to be heard, especially as a future educator. From now on, I’m going to fulfill my duty as a citizen and vote in every election, even if it is an off-year one. All of those women didn’t fight for their voices to be heard, just so I wouldn’t vote.

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